Juveniles In Portlaoise Prison In The 1960s.

TDs Wallace and Daly in court to support criminal Leon Wright who was cleared of assaulting a prison officer
Leon Wright

Tom Tuite
19/10/2016 | 18:44
A violent criminal has been cleared of assaulting a prison officer when he was searched for weapons.

Leon Wright (28) of Donore Avenue in Dublin 8 remained handcuffed and flanked by five prison staff wearing riot gear for his district court trial on Wednesday.

Wright, who claimed he was beaten by prison officers, was supported in court by Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly who took notes of the proceedings from the public gallery.

After the defence raised questions over the credibility of prosecution witnesses and evidence, Judge Alan Mitchell said that having viewed the CCTV evidence in particular he was dismissing the case.

He also said that he was going to direct that the Court Service would prepare a copy of the digital audio recording of the hearing and that it would be offered to Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly in the event he would like to “take further action”.



  1. paddoconnell said,

    17/10/2017 at 10:48 pm

    Irish author Brendan Behan wrote about his experiences in an English borstal – St Patrick’s was also originally based on this penal model.
    Irish author Brendan Behan wrote about his experiences in an English borstal – St Patrick’s was also originally based on this penal model.
    Image: Borstal Boy film via IMDB
    “Your borstal is a disgrace”: A grim century of St Pat’s
    St Patrick’s Institution started in Co Tipperary – and was once condemned by Fr Edward Flanagan of ‘Boys’ Town’ fame.
    Apr 4th 2015, 10:00 PM 30,359 24

    THE CLOSURE OF St Patrick’s Institution in Dublin this week marks the end of 109 years of borstal treatment in Ireland.

    Yes, you read that correctly. While the language of penology changes over the decades, St Patrick’s was indeed a borstal and that is how it began life in south Tipperary in 1906.

    Perceptions of St Patrick’s have evolved over the years and the institution and its inmates have quite often been the victims of a distorted public image. Most Irish people, however, will have forgotten how it all began.

    We must go back to late-19th century Britain to explore the origins of the concept that led to St Patrick’s. One of the central recommendations of an 1895 British parliamentary investigation into the prison system was the establishment of a penal reformatory to punish and reform the high volume of habitual young male offenders.

    In 1901, following several years of consultation, an experimental institution was established when a handful of male criminals between the ages of 16 and 21 years were held in a separate wing of a local prison in a village in Kent. The name of that village was Borstal and that experiment marked the beginning of one of the most enlightened – for its time – yet ultimately controversial, penal initiatives of the twentieth century.

    UK Crime – Incarceration – Borstals Young inmates in an early borstal at Feltham, London, as the penal institution went widespread across the UK and over to Tipperary.
    Source: PA Archive

    Having been deemed an early success in Kent, the ‘borstal’ system, as it was now known, was extended to Ireland where it was opened in May 1906 as a separate wing of the existing local prison in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

    For four years the inmates were detained in separation from the adult prisoners and in 1910 the latter were transferred elsewhere and the complex was fully converted into Ireland’s first and, for 50 years, only borstal institution.

    The system was not intended for first offenders but for those who were already on the path to habitual criminality. With a strong emphasis on education, training, physical drill and moral guidance, borstal was not for the faint of heart or body.

    From England to Clonmel

    Between 1906 and 1921, a quarter of all inmates originated from Dublin and another quarter from Belfast. An institution was established in Belfast in 1926. Most of those in Clonmel were detained for offences including larceny, house-breaking, animal theft, assault and a low number for sexual crimes.

    Clonmel borstal enjoyed mixed fortunes as the decades progressed, its greatest challenges coming from a continued lack of proper infrastructural investment from government. In 1922 as the civil war took hold in Ireland the institution was commandeered for military purposes and the boys were moved farther south in Tipperary to Clogheen workhouse.

    They were subsequently burned out by anti-treaty forces and the institution was forced to move to Kilkenny workhouse until 1924 when it returned to Clonmel. During the 1920s and 1930s Clonmel borstal suffered from a degree of stagnation and did not progress at the same pace as the British institutions.


    In late 1940 the complex at Clonmel was once again taken over for military purposes at the height of the Emergency. The institution was moved to a separate wing of Cork prison for six years where borstal in Ireland continued to experience the same level of neglect.

    In Cork the boys were subjected to education, trades training and a form of gymnastics known as Sokol drill which began in Czechoslovakia in the 1860s.

    While St Patrick’s Institution came in for much criticism in the later 20th century the first high-profile condemnation came somewhat unexpectedly in 1946. Father Edward Flanagan was the legendary Roscommon-born founder of the Boys’ Town home for destitute boys in Omaha, Nebraska.

    On a visit to Ireland during the summer of that year he declared:

    From what I have seen since coming to this country, your institutions are not all noble, particularly your borstal, which are a disgrace.
    PA-8694734 Fr Edward J Flanagan, right, pictured here with the US Forces commander in Austria General Keyes in 1948.
    Source: AP/Press Association Images

    By this time Flanagan was already a renowned expert in his field and was portrayed by Spencer Tracy in the MGM motion picture, Boys Town. Despite a solid reputation in America and around the world, his comm

  2. paddoconnell said,

    02/11/2017 at 9:15 pm

    Reblogged this on Paddoconnell's Blog.

  3. paddoconnell said,

    12/12/2017 at 12:12 am

    THE MAJORITY OF children sent to prison in Ireland in the 1960s were not offenders, instead they were imprisoned for issues relating to neglect and poverty – often common threads in their stories.

    Dr Fiachra Byrne from the School of History in UCD told TheJournal.ie, “They were suffering from status offences.

    Despite the rhetoric of the importance of family by the Irish State – that didn’t apply to all children in Ireland, especially the ones who were put into institutions.
    Ireland’s relationship with young offenders continues to cause problems for the State.

    St Patrick’s Institution closed its doors on 7 April this year and all 17-year-olds are now sent to Oberstown. Announcing the closure the Minister for Justice at the time Frances Fitzgerald said:

    St Patrick’s Institution has been the subject of much criticism by various bodies and persons involved in the area of human rights and children’s rights. The signing of these orders will now consign the name of St Patrick’s to the history books and is a significant and progressive step forward in the treatment of children.
    However Oberstown is not without its problems and there has been a string of high-profile episodes at the detention centre. Last August a major fire broke out at the centre after young offenders climbed onto the roof of the building during a protest.

    In May, staff were threatened and assaulted before three youths escaped using an angle grinder to cut through the perimeter fence.

    In July, the director of the facility Pat Bergin confirmed two incidents involving inmates, one of which required garda intervention. Last month a teenage boy was accused of causing €50k damage at the young offenders centre.

    During this atmosphere of tension in our current detention services for young offenders, Dr Byrne is looking at Ireland’s past and how we treated young offenders as adults, keeping them in their cells for 14 hours a day and implementing punishment diets and isolation.

    Byrne is researching the mental health of juveniles in custodial institutions in Ireland and England from 1850-2000 as part of the project Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000.

    He explained that there was a huge resistance to child psychology in Ireland up to the 1950s due to the close connections between state and church. ”Psychology was often seen as subversive to Catholic morals,” he claims.

    “That changes slightly in the 1950s, we then incorporate bits of child psychology without affecting Catholicism.”

    In the early 1960s, Artane Industrial school had over 700 boys, Byrne described them as, “Quite young kids with almost no offenders at all in there.

    These children were kids deprived of a normal home life and they didn’t have proper affection.
    The first child guidance (care for psychologically or emotionally disturbed children) didn’t start in Ireland until 1965, but that would have started in the UK in the 1920s. Byrne added:

    Psychology here was dominated by priests in the 1930s. Proper studies were not started until the late 1950, early 1960s.
    “They were still very much in a Catholic framework but there were liberal elements to it. It was modernising within a context.”

    Bread, water and isolation

    St Patrick’s Institution was the main penal repository for boys aged 16-17 years who were sentenced to prison in Dublin. By the late 1960s, it had an average population of about 170 and, by the early 1970s, its average population exceeded 200.

    A survey of boys in St Patrick’s in 1967 found that 69% had been committed for property crimes, while 24% had been committed for violent crimes.

    Byrne said that although St Patrick’s Institution catered for juvenile prisoners in terms of regime and physical environment, it differed little from prisons for adults. The children spent around 14 hours a day in their cells.

    In 1971, the chaplain to St Patrick’s, Gabriel Slattery, described this as a “considerable length of time”, adding: “The psychological effects of this must be very serious especially for retarded or illiterate boys.”

    Punishment also mirrored adult prisons. It consisted of restricted diets, solitary confinement and loss of remission.

    Inmates could be placed on a diet of bread and water for a three days during which time they would be confined to a small basement cell isolated from all contact by three locked doors and two corridors.

    Describing the condition of the confinement, Slattery said: “The tiny window in these cells is well below ground level. The only furniture provided is a mattress, a few blankets, and a chamber pot in the corner. There is no table, no chair and no bed.

    The cell is no larger than a domestic bathroom. The removal of the mattress during the day in some cases means that a boy must sit on the wooden floor and walk around the cell for 23 hours a day for three continuous days. The 24th hour the boy spends walking in circles around the walled-in tarmac watched by an officer only and cut off from all others.
    After three days, the boy would normally be moved onto a diet of some porridge, potatoes, bread and water. He would still be confined to a cell but in a different section of the prison where it might contain an iron bed, a chair and a desk. This punishment could continue for up to 15 days.

    The prisoners could then face into another 15 days where they were deprived of cigarettes and recreation, returning to their cells at 4.30pm after work and remaining there until the following morning.

    Watershed Moment

    In England, steps were being taken to humanise institutions in the 50s and 60s but that didn’t happen over here until the 70s when new institutions – such as St Laurence’s in Finglas – were set up.

    The Kennedy Report in 1970 was the first time the severe issues in juvenile custody were recognised at policy level.

    Byrne said the report “signaled a significant disenchantment with the institutionalisation of children in Ireland” and highlighted the importance of the emotional and psychological needs of children.

    The Kennedy Report described educational and training facilities in the institutions as “insufficient and primitive”.

    “St Patrick’s is an old style penitentiary building with rows of cells, iron gates and iron spiral staircases. Offenders, in the main, occupy single cells. These are small and gloomy and each one has a small barred window almost at ceiling level. Offenders are held in these cells for approximately fourteen hours per day,” it said.

    The system of locking young persons into a cell alone for a good portion of the 24 hours can hardly be conducive rehabilitation. We feel that something should be done to improve conditions there.
    The report recommended that inappropriate and inadequate institutions should be closed, that remaining services should be professionalised and that the emotional and mental well-being of children in care should be catered for. It also recommended that psychological and psychiatric assessment should be provided.

    Byrne described how, as time went on, Ireland’s institutions for children grew independent from church and gravitated more towards international norms.

    Byrne said, “They started hiring social workers but some of those turned out to be sexually abusing the boys so the switch certainly didn’t solve all problems.”

    Setting cells on fire and swallowing nails

    The year after the report was published, the chaplain of St Patrick’s Institution Gabriel Slattery wrote to Archbishop Charles McQuaid describing how some of the boys were protesting as one wing on the building was being ‘hacked down’ in preparation for plastering the cells. The boys were confined in semi-demolished, dust-filled cells due to pressure of numbers.

    Slattery told McQuaid that in the previous weeks, more than a dozen boys swallowed nails in protest including one boy who swallowed a buckle. He said that two boys cut their wrists with glass and one boy tried to burn his cell while locked in at night but he was saved.

    Another boy tried to stab another inmate with a knife because he had tried to stop a 15-year-old from jumping off a balcony. Slattery said the 15-year-old told him that he was terrified when locked up in his cell at night on his own.

    Dr Byrne said the grim historical narrative of these institutions shows systematic neglect and, frequently, child abuse.

    Byrne is a member of a team of historians at four different universities in England and Ireland that are working on the project Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000.

    Director of the UCD Centre for the History of Medicine, Associate Professor Catherine Cox, is a co-principal investigator of the project. Cox and Byrne presented some of their research at Parnell Summer School earlier this month.

  4. paddoconnell said,

    16/12/2017 at 1:49 pm


    Frankie Gaffney
    ‘If you are in favour of human rights, you must want them for everyone – including prisoners’
    ‘It is a mark of true sincerity, therefore, for politicians to take up unpopular causes like that of Leon Wright,’ writes author Frankie Gaffney.

    Image: Photocall Ireland
    Dec 14th 2016, 6:00 PM 11,224 109

    THERE WAS controversy when TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly decided to act as observers at a court hearing for a convict accused of assaulting prison staff.

    The Irish Independent, using a typically anonymous ‘senior source’, sensationally branded the young man in question as “one of the worst, if not the worst that the prison system has ever come across”.

    Most media reports similarly dwelled on severity of the defendant’s past crimes.

    Leon Wright: Inmate had ear bitten and torn by Mountjoy prison officer
    All such commentary studiously diverted attention from the real crux of this matter, the reason for Clare Daly and Mick Wallace’s concern: human rights.

    Yesterday, TheJournal.ie revealed the same prisoner had his ear bitten and torn by a prison officer during an altercation.

    You can take one of two positions on human rights: you are for them, or against them.

    If you are in favour of human rights, you must be in favour of them for everyone.

    No exceptions.

    You must be in favour of them for your enemies. You must be in favour of them precisely for the people you despise the most.

    Those who are against upholding the human rights of ANY individual, no matter what they have done (or have been accused of doing) align themselves not with law abiding citizens, but instead with the Hitlers, Stalins, Pol Pots, and Pinochets of this world.

    Deciding on an individual basis who is worthy of consideration as a human being and who isn’t is the essence of murderous totalitarianism. It is fundamentally incompatible with the most basic values of democracy.

    Lest it be said that I’m being insensitive to the plight of victims, it should be noted that I’m no stranger to violence myself. I’ve been the target of very serious attacks on a number of occasions.

    I’ve been punched, kicked, cut, bottled, battered with steel bars. I’ve been hospitalised – and even had to undergo emergency plastic surgery to correct the worst of these injuries.

    I know what it’s like. I know the physical and psychological trauma that violence causes.

    I lay the blame not on the perpetrators, however, who at a very young age were pushed into a spiral of criminality and violence they had no way of escaping.

    I lay the blame for the fact so many impoverished, uneducated and disenfranchised young men become embroiled in brutality squarely at the door of those who created this environment.

    To wit, the successive Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael administrations who have been in government since the foundation of the State. It is they who formed the brutal social landscape of the city I came of age in.

    Furthermore, they did little or nothing to ameliorate the horror that engulfed the inner-city from the 1980s on. On the contrary, they fueled this perfect crucible for savagery through their polices of prohibition combined with educational and economic deprivation.

    Lest you think I’m proposing some sort of “nanny-state” that molly-coddles its citizens, absolving them of any personal responsibility, just remember that private schools receive State funding. The big financial speculators – gamblers – got bailouts. And in the midst of the worst homelessness crisis in the history of the state, instead of building social housing, this government siphoned money into the hands of private landlords and developers as a matter of policy.

    We look after one segment of our population already. The wealthy and privileged do not suffer the consequences of their mistakes, they are not even held to account for their crimes.

    It is only the poor who have to deal with negative effects of the so-called ‘free’ market. As it stands, we have socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.
    If violence truly does appall you, you should want to stop it happening to anyone else.

    You should want to prevent re-offending.

    To do this, the State must adopt evidence-based approaches. Needless to say, none of the evidence suggests further brutalising people or depriving them of their human rights will achieve this.

    Punishment for punishment’s sake is not merely useless and cruel, if it in fact leads to more violent offending, creating more victims, it is evil.

    PastedImage-17813 File photo: TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace

    It is ironic that Wallace and Daly, and indeed the left more generally, are often accused of populism (for their stance on issues like water charges, for example).

    There are few policies less popular with voters than standing up for the rights of violent criminals.

    Politicians depend on the goodwill of their electorate for their career – for their livelihood.

    It is a mark of true sincerity, therefore, for TDs to take up unpopular causes like this.

    This stands in stark contrast to the establishment politicians, who are willing to pander to the most vile agendas in order to cynically flatter the prejudices of the electorate.

    When politicians champion the rights of those society deems worthless, those who have no voice, it is a sign that they truly are concerned not just with re-election.

    Not only with playing the game of popularity and public perception. It shows they actually want to break the cycle of violence, whether that violence emanates from disturbed young men – or from the State itself.

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