Tag Archives: Charlie Flanagan

Front page of today’s Kerryman

This morning.

A 1,500-word apology  “to the people of Caherciveen” for what has unfolded at a direct provision centre in has been published in newspapers, including The Kerryman and The Irish Examiner.

Since April,  25 people in the former Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen, including three staff, have been infected with Covid-19.

The letter can be read in full here

Meanwhile…

Also, earlier this month…

Charlie Flanagan apologises to Kerry people over controversial direct provision centre (Michael Clifford, The Irish Examiner)

Regulations signed by Minister for Health Simon Harris

In the last few moments.

The regulations signed by the Minister for Health Simon Harris last night, giving effect to extraordinary Garda powers this weekend, have been posted on the Department of Health’s website.

They can be downloaded here.

More as we get it.

EARLIER:

From top: a Garda checkpoint in Phoenix Park this morningGarda Commissioner Drew Harris and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan;

This morning.

The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan spoke to RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke in light of new regulations coming into force at midnight which have enabled gardai to punish people who fail to heed Covid-19 restrictions. The legislation was signed into law two weeks ago.

Breaches of the restrictions could result in fines of up to €2,500 and six months in prison.

It followed the Minister for Health Simon Harris telling RTÉ’s Prime Time last night that, after the current affairs programme, he would sign the regulations to ensure gardai had the powers “in their back pocket” should they be needed.

Mr Harris’ appearance on RTÉ followed a meeting he held with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mr Flanagan, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, Attorney General Séamus Woulfe and Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan earlier in the evening.

The regulations have yet to be published.

This morning’s interview by Seán O’Rourke focused on people who may wish to travel to their holiday homes this weekend.

Seán O’Rourke: “First of all, why the delay, why has it taken so long to get these regulations signed? I mean the Commissioner was on I think This Week, 12 days ago or thereabouts, saying they were going to come on very quickly?”

Charlie Flanagan: “These regulations were complex, they had to be very carefully legally drafted and of course people had to be consulted. Can I thank you, Seán, for having me on the show. And can I thank, through you, the people of Ireland, for their compliance and their forbearance. This is the fourth week now of these stringent, emergency measures. We’re not there yet.

“We still, unfortunately, have cases increasing. We still unfortunately have deaths increasing. We’ve some of the way to go yet. And that’s why we have these emergency regulations now being brought into force.”

O’Rourke: “Yeah. The, just can you clarify. There was mention there by [former Attorney General, former Minister for Justice, former Tánaiste and Senior Counsel] Michael McDowell and indeed I think by [former Garda …] John O’Brien, they’re in existence only until Easter Sunday. That’s a four-day period. Now, OK, they can be re-introduced but why is it such a short span?”

Flanagan: “Well I didn’t listen to all of the texts and calls to your show so far. But it seems to me that the trend is from holiday villages, from scenic areas, from places where tourists frequent and there is a concern therefore, a concern that I share, that compliance may be difficult to sustain now over the coming days with particular reference to the holiday period, the fine weather, the fact that some people maybe coming a little complacent now that we’re into the fourth week.

“So it’s important therefore that the gardai have clarity as to the regulatory arrangements and another reason why Minister Harris signed these regulations into law last night.”

O’Rourke: “Yeah, can I just clarify one thing. A question put forward, and a good one as well, by one our listeners. Can the gardai knock at the doors of holiday homes and send the people there back to their main residences? That’s from Martha in Cork.”

Flanagan: “Yes, my understanding is that regulations can be enforced in terms of movements. And there is quite an array of restrictions on movement that everybody in the country is aware of and that 99.9% of the people of the country have ben fully compliant with. So yes, there’s a restriction on movement, on people who do breach that restriction, can be ordered home and also, of course, the restriction on events in terms of gathering of people in numbers.”

O’Rourke: “So if you’re in a house other than your own, by definition, you have moved there so you can be asked to return to your regular residence. Is that allowed for?”

Flanagan: “Yes, people may well be required to stay at home. They may well be impeded in their travel. You know, the holiday weekend car, with the roof box and the bucket and spades in the back, the gardai will be mounting some checkpoints. I understand the Garda Commissioner will be holding a press briefing later on this morning but he will also be impressing, as I am now, that there is no change in the Garda strategy.

“What the gardai will continue to do is engage and encourage and explain and assist people. But if there are one or two people, or a very small number of people who wish to deliberately flout the regulations and thereby endanger the public health of people, well then the law will be there as a recourse but as a last recourse for the Garda Síochána.”

Later

O’Rourke: “There’s a report today suggesting that one of the reasons it took so long for the regulations to emerge, and also why they are on such a short time-limit, is because some of your colleagues felt that they really were a step too far?”

Flanagan: “Well, they are a last resort. They do comprise restrictions on liberty of a type that we haven’t seen before. But they do amount to a response to the emergency situation that we are now in. As I said to you earlier, Seán, the vast majority of people in the country have absolutely nothing to fear here. The vast majority of people have been most compliant with the advice of Dr Tony Holohan which has been put into legal effect in terms of guidelines and regulations by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health.

“What we’re saying is that we want this to continue because we want to continue to flatten the curve and save lives. And also ensure, in the meantime, that our health service is in a position to cope.”

Later

O’Rourke: “I suppose, again, people will be wondering, as they inevitably do, you know, how they can work their way around, find a loophole in the regulations and so forth. I mean like how it will work in practice, for instance, if somebody is stopped by a garda and they say ‘guard, look I’m going to the pharmacy for medicine’. You know the guard will presumably have to take them at their word?”

Flanagan: “Well, there will be an element of discretion on the part of the gardai. But each case will be judged on its own merits and the member of the Garda Síochána will be in a position to make inquiries and will be in a position to draw inferences from the circumstances of the, of the conversation with the individual involved.”

Listen back in full here

Previously: Locking Down Our Civil Liberties

Rollingnews

UPDATE:

Meanwhile, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has released a statement, calling for the extraordinary police powers not to be used. The statement says:

“Any heavy-handed enforcement of the regulations carries serious dangers for the relationship between Gardaí and the public, especially around asking for documentary proof of employment.

“Criminalising those who do not comply could clog up the criminal justice system at a time when courts are closed but for urgent cases and prisons are trying to achieve physical distancing.”

In addition, ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said:

“The approach of An Garda Síochána up to this point has been based on consent and has been for the most part successful. We urge both Government and Gardaí to continue this approach. The vast majority of people have been observing the advice to stay at home and restrict movements to what is essential for the past two weeks.

“So it is not clear that there is any demonstrated need to move from consent to enforcement and we urge the Garda Commissioner to make it clear that the introduction of these regulations does not lead to any significant change in the operational approach of the Gardaí.”

ICCL: Extraordinary police powers should not be used (ICCL)

UPDATE: 

Mr Herrick, speaking to Claire Byrne on RTÉ’s News at One, made the following point:

“What we would be saying is that the commissioner now needs to issue operational guidance that we maintain the current practice, that there shouldn’t be a significant departure at this stage and that that policing by consent with the trust and confidence of the people is the most successful way that we can go forward.

“I think, firstly what needs to happen here, of course, is that the regulations need to be published. The public need to see these and the minister obviously made them available to RTÉ last night but the public haven’t seen them yet.

“I think it’s very important that there are safeguards put in place, too. Every single use of these extraordinary powers should be recorded and the Policing Authority should be involved in monitoring their use to make sure that they’re evenly used and also, as the minister and commissioner have said, sparingly as well.”

Earlier, RTÉ’s Crime Correspondent told Ms Byrne that RTÉ had seen the, as yet, unpblished regulations.

Listen back in full here


From top: One room shared by seven asylum-seeking men in a newly opened direct provision centre in Ennis, Co Clare; Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton

This morning.

RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke interviewed the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan about direct provision and Covid-19.

Mr O’Rourke started the interview by telling listeners that the Department of Justice has made more than 650 new direct provision beds available for the Covid-19 emergency.

The group Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland [MASI] last night tweeted pictures of some of these new beds which would appear to show the same crowded conditions as ‘old’ direct provision centres.

Asked about this, and MASI’s claim that seven asylum-seeking men were forced to share a bedroom that would suit one person in Ennis, Co Clare (pic above), Mr Flanagan mentioned that he had seen “misleading information on social media”.

Mr Flanagan wasn’t asked to specify to what he was referring.

From the interview:

Seán O’Rourke: “Are asylum seekers in a position to follow the social distancing [two metres] guidelines put in place by your own Government and its health advisors.”

Charlie Flanagan: “Good morning, Seán. And this is one of the many challenges that we’re facing as a society. Obviously myself and Minister [David] Stanton, and indeed everybody across the Department of Justice and our agencies, we’re very concerned at the situation and, indeed, the vulnerability of people in direct provision.

“People who are awaiting their applications to be dealt with as to whether or not they may be in a position, legally, to remain for he foreseeable future in our state. And I believe it’s important that the concerns that you mentioned that were met. That’s why we managed, after considerable amount of work, to procure a further 650 new beds which are now coming on stream.

“That will alleviate something of the pressure that’s on many of our centres in terms of complying with the Government and public health guidelines.”

Seán O’Rourke: “Yeah, well I see a statement responding to your announcement from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland [MASI] saying they’re deeply troubled because, for instance, new direct provision centres, have the same congregated settings where asylum seekers, they share intimate living spaces like bedrooms, communal bathrooms, dining areas, often in large numbers.”

Flanagan: “Yeah, and that’s why we’re moving to mitigate the problems and deal with the issues. Obviously, we’re dealing with people here who are in a congregated setting, some of the centres are big. Some of the centres are not so big. But I have to say we are working very positively with all of the management in the centres, right across the country and there are just about 40 centres.

“They are all of different dimensions but I’m satisfied that the new regulations are now taking place right across the direct provision stage.

“We have, for example, the provision of gels and soaps advices, often times required in different language and translators. I’m not underestimating this challenge but what I’m saying is that what Minister Stanton, myself and my officials are working very hard in order to ensure that the vulnerable are dealt with in a way that’s right and proper in the circumstances.”

O’Rourke: “These 650 beds that have been announced. Are they just being made available on a temporary basis or what is the plan?”

Flanagan: “Well, obviously, direct provision is changing. It’s a challenge that we’ve had in terms of its organisation and management even before the crisis. What we have done now is acquired hotel accommodation in Dublin, in Galway, in Cork and, at the same time, however, we are engaged in procuring new centres in Cahircaveen, for example, in Rosslare Harbour, in Tullamore, in my own constituency. So this is an ever-changing scenario because we want to ensure that our centres meet our own national standards and…”

O’Rourke: “I’m just wondering who gets these 650 beds? Are they all being put to use or are some of them being held back for use, for instance, for isolation purposes?”

Flanagan: “Oh, no. I expect that they would all be brought into use at the earliest opportunity. Obviously when we speak about vulnerable people in society, we talk about people over 65, we talk about people who have underlying or pre-existing medical conditions. In Direct Provision, for example, we have a mere 57 people of the entire 5,600 over the age of 65.

“I’m assuming that these will be the prime candidates for relocation. Similarly people who are vulnerable and obviously looking at areas, for example, where there may be small rooms in centres, that they would be smaller…”

O’Rourke: “Yeah because, I don’t know if you’ve seen the statement form MASI…”

Flanagan: “Yeah, I see them on a daily basis Seán. And…”

O’Rourke: “Yeah, they’re talking, for instance, about the centre in Ennis. A new direct provision centre in Ennis where seven asylum-seeking men were forced to share a bedroom that would suit one person?”

Flanagan: “Yeah, well, I don’t know the size or dimensions of the room. I have seen some, some misleading information on social media. What I am saying, however, and what both Minister Stanton and myself are really keen to ensure is that, for example, social distancing, which obviously is a vital tool in protecting good health, ensuring that we save lives, ensuring that we stop the spread is if we can have our rooms in our centres confirm to these particular standards. And that’s what we’re working towards. And that’s what we will achieve.”

O’Rourke: “And what about health workers who have been living in direct provision. We’ve come across cases of that as well.”

Flanagan:Many of these are working. Many of their talents have been put to good use. And I believe again that is one of the advantages of…”

O’Rourke: “So why didn’t you prioritise for this new accommodation for instance?”

Flanagan: “Yes, well, well, there will be people who are vulnerable, there will be people who are in centres where we are not in a position to comply with the social distancing and I would expect over the next few days you will see a relocation. Firstly, the more vulnerable and then people who are in conditions that might require attention.”

This morning’s interview with the minister follows hundreds of academics in health, law, human rights and migration yesterday publishing an open letter in which they called for own-door accommodation and individualised access to sanitation and eating facilities to every family unit and single person in the international protection system.

They say the the necessary accommodation is available to provide for this and, to not do so, could see the State falling foul of its legal requirements.

It also follows a campaign by refugee and asylum seeker support groups calling on the Government to move out “at risk” residents from the crowded centres where social distancing is, they say, impossible.

Listen back to the interview in full here.

Previously: “Public Health Measures Must Apply To All”

No Room To Isolate

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan speaking to journalists last month

This morning.

Ben Haugh and Ronan Early, in The Times Ireland edition, reports:

“Leo Varadkar received hundreds of angry emails about the plan to commemorate the RIC, including dozens from lifelong Fine Gael supporters who said they would never vote for the party again.

…Documents released to The Times under freedom of information laws show that more than 200 people contacted Mr Varadkar’s office shortly after the event was announced, calling for it to be cancelled. A further 250 people contacted Charlie Flanagan, the justice minister, to complain.”

Election 2020: Hundreds ‘didn’t vote for Fine Gael over RIC commemoration row’ (Ben Haugh, Ronan Early, The Times Ireland edition)

Previously: “Obscene”

“We Maybe Should Reconsider These Commemorations” [Updated]

Rollingnews

East End Hotel in Portarlington, Co Laois; Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan

Further to the Department of Justice claiming at the weekend that a video showing ten beds in one room for asylum seekers living in a direct provision centre at the East End Hotel in Portarlington, Co Laois was staged – a claim the group Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland wholly rejected…

Yesterday Patrick O’Connell, of the Sunday World, tweeted a video from last October showing ten beds in one room in the same hotel.

Mr O’Connell explained that at the time the Department of Justice “verified” the situation and “asked for beds to be removed”.

And yet.

At the weekend, the department said: “Similar claims were made about the accommodation in the hotel last autumn and subsequent department inspections confirmed that the accommodation arrangements at the hotel had been misrepresented in a staged video at that time.”

There you go now.

Yesterday: “The More People You Have In A Centre, The More Money You Can Make”

Patrick O’Connell

Lucia and Jim O’Farrell with their daughters outside Garda HQ in Phoenix Park in January of this year; the late Shane O’Farrell

This morning.

The family of the late Shane O’Farrell will hold a demonstration outside Leinster House before meeting with TDs, including Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan.

They plan to discuss the Department of Justice’s rejection of terms of reference drawn up by District Court Judge Gerard Haughton who was appointed by the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to chair a scoping exercise into the death of 23-year-old Shane.

Shane was killed on August 2, 2011, while cycling home when he was struck by a car driven by Zigimantas Gridzuiska.

The O’Farrell family have been campaigning for several years for not only the matters leading up to Shane’s death to be investigated but, also, for their concerns about matters which occurred after Shane’s death to also be examined.

In March 2018, the Dáil voted by a majority of two to one for a commission of investigation to be set up to investigate Shane’s death.

The same motion was carried in the Seanad in February 2019, with Senator David Norris telling the Seanad:

“Since that vote [in the Dáil] eight months ago the family has discovered that two statements given by Zigimantas Gridziuska were altered by the Garda for the inquest into Shane’s horrific death. This is most extraordinary. Left out was reference to his heroin problem.

“Those statements were not redacted: they were completely removed and the sentences joined up. These incomplete statements would only have been noticed if compared with the original statements. It is very much in the public interest that there would be a public inquiry in line with what the other House has already decided…”

In the same month, February 2019, Minister Flanagan chose to launch a scoping inquiry instead of a commission of investigation – despite the votes in the Dáil and Seanad – and appointed Judge Haughton to carry this out.

However, the O’Farrell family believe that the department’s rejection of the judge’s proposed terms of reference “undermines the scoping inquiry” and that the new terms put forth by the department “are deliberately narrow”.

Judge Haughton submitted his terms of reference – considered after he met the family and which the family respected – to the Department of Justice on April 24, 2019.

However, according to the family, the department has:

Removed references to Shane and the family’s rights under the ECHR to ensure an effective investigation into the unlawful killing. To date the State has failed in its obligations under the ECHR;

Removed consideration of the prosecution of Shane’s case,

Removed any consideration of the Coroner’s Inquest into Shane’s death, in which serious irregularities have emerged;

Removed any investigation into the previous prosecutions of the accused (despite him being in breach of multiple counts of bail when he killed Shane);

Limited the judge to take into account the outcome of reports prepared (being reports which in the families view are deficient), rather than a review of the investigations behind these reports, as originally envisaged in the February terms of reference.

This morning, the family have said:

“An independent public inquiry is the last chance for the State to meet its ECHR obligations to investigate properly Shane’s unlawful killing and to carry out an effective investigation into the true and full circumstances of the unlawful killing and the role of State authorities in Shane’s death.

“The family has the utmost respect for Judge Haughton, however the family believe that the terms of reference now proposed by the department do not reflect the spirit of the Dáil and Seanad resolution.

“These terms will not allow the inquiry to ascertain the full and relevant facts pertaining to Shane’s case and appear to be an attempt to curtail the scope of the Inquiry and further delay matters.

“The terms proposed by the department would lead to a narrow and unfair consideration of the complex legal and public policy issues that are at play in Shane’s case and they are not sufficiently broad or exhaustive to address the State’s ECHR obligations.

“The family attend Dáil Éireann today in a bid to secure truth and justice on Shane’s behalf.

“This requires a public inquiry to establish the truth of what happened and we will be making representations to TDs today seeking that the resolution of the Dáil and Seanad for a public inquiry is followed.”

Zigimantas Gridzuiska, 39, from Lithuania, who had 42 previous convictions in three different jurisdictions and was out on bail at the time, should have been in jail when he struck Shane.

He pleaded guilty to failing to stop, report or remain at the scene of the crash and he received an eight-month suspended sentence on February 28, 2013, on condition that he leave the country within 21 days.

Judge Pat McCartan, at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin, gave Gridziuska the choice of serving the eight months or leaving the country and he chose the latter.

During the sentencing of Gridzisuka, Shane’s mum Lucia O’Farrell claims Judge McCartan asked if there was anything coming up in the pipeline for Gridziuska and that the State solicitor failed to notify the judge that – over the five months before Gridziuska’s trial – a file had been prepared in relation to insurance fraud charges against Gridziuska.

Ms O’Farrell repeatedly requested for this file to be compiled and completed so that it could be included in the proceedings of the case of dangerous driving causing death.

But it wasn’t.

On March 1, 2013 – one day after Gridziuska dangerous driving trial finished – the file on Gridziuska’s insurance fraud was submitted to the DPP.

Then on March 6, 2013 – just days after he was ordered to leave the State within 21 days – Gridziuska appeared in Carrickmacross District Court for insurance fraud and he was jailed for five months by Judge Sean MacBride in relation to three policies of insurance fraud, one of which covered the day on which Shane was killed.

Judge MacBride also banned him from driving for ten years.

Related: The road to truth in Shane O’Farrell case getting narrower and narrower (Michael Clifford, The Irish Examiner)

Previously: Shane O’Farrell on Broadsheet

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan in the Dáil last night extended redress for those who worked in the Magdalene Laundries but were not residents

Last night in the Dáil, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan presented the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2019.

He explained that the purpose of the bill was to amend the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Act 2015 – to ensure women who would have worked at Magdalene Laundries but lived in adjoining institutions, as opposed to the laundries themselves, can receive compensation via the Magdalene Restorative Justice ex gratia scheme which was set up in 2013.

The bill is also designed to ensure that awards received by the women won’t be taken into account when assessments are made for their nursing home supports.

The move follows Ombudsman Peter Tyndall who published a report in November 2017 called Opportunity Lost – An Investigation by the Ombudsman into the administration of the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme, in which he criticised the Department of Justice for its administration of the scheme and it’s exclusion of the women who worked at the laundries.

Mr Flanagan told the Dáil:

“The purpose of this amending Bill, which is short and technical in nature, is to apply these same health benefits to those women who qualify under the November 2018 addendum to the Magdalene redress scheme.”

However, he also said:

“There were three other recommendations of the Ombudsman. These relate, first, to assistance to applicants who lack capacity to accept an award and second, to a review of those cases where there is a dispute in respect of length of stay in a Magdalen institution.

A senior counsel was appointed to carry out both these tasks.

“All but one of the capacity cases have now been resolved and the review in relation to the length of stay issue is ongoing.

“The third recommendation by the Ombudsman was that guidance should be provided for future redress schemes.

A working group led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is examining this issue.

“Officials in my Department have kept the Ombudsman informed of progress in relation to the implementation of his recommendations and last month I met the Ombudsman, who acknowledged the progress that has been made, to date, in implementing his recommendations.”

Following the Dáil debate, human rights lecturer and co-founder of the Clann Project Dr Maeve O’Rourke, tweeted her thoughts…

In addition, Marie O’Connor, chair of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy, also tweeted her thoughts…

Yesterday: Who Came Up With The ‘Prior Complaint’ Requirement?

Previously:  Magdalene Laundries on Broadsheet

UPDATE:

Last month, Conall Ó Fátharta, in the Irish Examiner, reported that barrister Mary O’Toole is carrying out the review mentioned by Mr Flanagan above and that just eight women who had been in dispute with the Department of Justice over the length of time they worked in a Magdalene laundry have so far received redress payments.

Mr Ó Fátharta also reported that Ms O’Toole had identified a total of 214 cases for review.

Eight redress payments made to Magdalene survivors (Conall Ó Fátharta, The Irish Examiner, June 17, 2019)

 

 

 

 

From top: The late Sylva Tukula (centre); Great Western direct provision centre in Galway

Update:

Via The Irish Times:

Sylva Tukula was buried in a HSE-owned plot on May 9th at the Bohermore cemetery on the authority of the city coroner

Galway city coroner Dr Ciarán Mac Loughlin, who signed off on the burial, said he was not informed her friends were waiting to retrieve her body.

“Had we known anyone was interested we would have informed them but no one said anything to me or the bereavement officer in Galway,” Dr Mac Loughlin told The Irish Times, adding that she was found to have died of natural causes.

“We certainly would be very upset if people thought this was done in any surreptitious or underhand manner. It wasn’t, we had nothing to hide behind. If the interested parties had said they wanted to take custody of the body that would have been fine, we would have released it to them.”

A spokesman from the Department of Justice said it regretted “the unintended distress” caused to Tukula’s friends but claimed that despite the best efforts of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), news of her burial was only released after the event.

Miscommunication between State bodies led to woman’s burial without mourners (Irish Times)

Earlier:

Further to the report yesterday about the death of Sylva Tukula, who identified as a transwoman, in the men’s-only Great Western House Direct Provision centre in Galway and who was buried unbeknownst to her friends in May…

At the time of Sylva’s death last August, it was reported that she had requested to be moved out of the all-male centre where she reportedly had a single room.

Several weeks after her death, Sinn Féin TD Donncha O’Laoghaire tabled a question for the Tánaiste Simon Coveney and the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, in which he asked about the criteria transgenderpersons in direct provision must meet in order to be accommodated in centres of their preferred gender.

In response to the question, on September 20, 2018, Fine Gael TD and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton said:

“All persons seeking international protection are offered accommodation under regulation (7) of the European Communities (reception conditions) Regulations 2018. In offering that accommodation a number of factors are considered including whether a person requires any special reception needs

Where a person concerned has disclosed their self-determined identity to the Reception and Integration Agency, they are, in so far as is possible and practicable, assigned accommodation based on their needs.

At any time during a recipient’s stay in an accommodation centre, the option to request a transfer to a more suitable centre is also available to them.

“The policy of the Reception and Integration Agency is to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of all. Staff within accommodation centres receive regular training to equip them with the skills to support all residents.”

However…

Two months later, the Government was still being asked to guarantee transgender asylum seekers be housed in accordance with their gender identity.

A study by the National LGBT Federation (NXF) led to the publication of a report called Far From Home: Life As An LGBT Migrant In Ireland which was published in November 2018.

Co-authored by Dr Chris Noone, Dr Brian Keogh and Dr Conor Buggy, the study was dedicated to the memory of Sylva who contributed to the design of the research.

One of the study’s recommendations reads:

“Direct provision should be ended and replaced with a more humane way of welcoming asylum seekers. In the meantime, actions need to be taken to protect members of the LGBT community who are living in direct provision from isolation and homophobia.

These include guaranteeing that LGBT people are accommodated in areas where they can access LGBT-specific services, that they are housed in accordance with their gender identity and that they are kept safe.”

Last night, The Department of Justice and Equality said of Sylva’s death:

Members of staff in the Department of Justice and Equality express their sympathies and condolences to the friends and colleagues of the deceased. Ms Sylva Tukula

All deaths and serious incidents that occur within accommodation centres provided by the Department are referred to the Gardaí Siochana as a matter of course and the Gardaí in turn refer all deaths to the local Coroner’s office.

As is the case with all Gardaí/Coroner matters, the Reception and Integration Agency is not privy to information pertaining to individual investigations carried out under their remit.

This afternoon, MASI, Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland responded:

It is totally regrettable and unacceptable that a [Department of] Justice spokesperson can come out and cry crocodile tears, that it was unintentional for them to secretly bury one of our own just like that.

More than we hate the system of direct provision, the one thing that it does is it brings us together and we become a family, not by choice.

We are a family in these centres from very strange circumstances.

When one of us suffer, we all suffer, we feel each other’s pain.

When we are even denied the very moment to say properly ‘goodbye’, it simply demonstrates how we are not treated as human beings in Ireland under the racist system of direct provision.

How do you undo what has been done already, we are hurting and no amount of sorry will ever change what you have done and are still doing to our people.

We are still yet to know the actual cause of death, even this will be kept as secret. Shame on you, Minister for Justice] Charlie [Flanagan].

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Facebook)

Pics: GCN

Yesterday: Buried Alone

Previously: Speaking Directly

From top: Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: Irish Prison Service logo

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan yesterday announced that he had asked the Inspector of Prisons, Patricia Gilheaney, to conduct a preliminary investigation into claims reported in the Irish Examiner by Michael Clifford.

Mr Clifford reported that a serving prison officer has made certain claims in a sworn affidavit to the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan about methods used to stem the suspected flow of drugs and mobile phones into prisons – by prisoners and prison officers.

The man reportedly made the affidavit as he has “no confidence in the operation of the Protected Disclosure Act in either the prison service or the Department of Justice”.

News of the affidavit comes after it was reported in September that Michael Donnellan, head of the Irish Prison Service since December 2011, is to step down at the end of this month – despite being reappointed to the job in January for a second five-year term.

In yesterday’s report, Mr Clifford explained that the prison officer’s affidavit includes the claim that a private detective agency was hired to carry out a bugging and surveillance operation without the “necessary legal permits and permissions”.

He reported that tracking devices were placed on a number of prison service vehicles and in some prison officers’ private cars, unbeknownst to them; listening devices were placed in visitor area of one prison to gather information; and intelligence was passed onto An Garda Siochana.

Mr Clifford also reported that the man claims:

“A van containing drugs and telephones, associated with a major criminal gang, was allowed into prison campus without the knowledge of the governor and staff in that prison. The personnel in the van were subsequently arrested but the covert operation was contrary to all security procedure at the prison.”

This morning, Mr Clifford reported further on the affidavit.

He reported that the prison officer has also raised concerns about the manner in which some deaths have been handled in prisons – claiming that protocols or procedures for the preservation of scenes were not followed.

And Mr Clifford reported that the prison officer spoke several times about the matter with the late Judge Michael Reilly – who was the Inspector of Prisons from 2008 until his death in November 2016.

Mr Clifford reported:

“In his affidavit, the whistleblower said as a result of his concerns about prison deaths he undertook a course in DNA and the preservation of crime scene at the garda training college, but found his enthusiasm to professionalise the response to deaths in custody was not shared by management.”

Last August, Mr Clifford’s Irish Examiner colleague Joe Leogue reported extensively on concerns raised by prison inspectors about proper records being kept in relation to inmate deaths, including the concerns of the the late Judge Reilly.

Mr Leogue reported:

“During his time as prison inspector, the same significant problem arose time and time again, and no matter how many times he called for the issue to be addressed, it would present itself once more, as if his words were falling on deaf ears.

Vulnerable prisoners were dying — and the official prison records of the circumstances around their deaths were not true accounts of what happened in the prison that day.

Every time a prisoner died in custody, the prison inspector would investigate the circumstances around the death.

Judge Reilly’s job was not to determine the cause of death — that was for the coroner — but he was tasked with examining whether the prison staff followed all correct protocols at the time.

A trend, however, was emerging regarding vulnerable prisoners who required special observation — ‘special obs’ as they are known.

In many cases, such prisoners are recognised as having mental health problems, suicidal ideation, or a history of self-harm.

Protocols dictate that ‘special obs’ must be checked on every 15 minutes, and staff must record each check in a log book.

Judge Reilly, however, found repeated incidences where a check of CCTV footage from the day a ‘special obs’ prisoner died contradicted the entries in the log.

He highlighted the problem in his 2013/2014 annual report, published in August 2014.

…Judge Reilly said he had been told that, in a number of prisons, the approach to record-keeping is to put “as little on paper as is necessary”.

“In one investigation that I had sight of, an officer, in referring to report writing, is quoted as stating: ‘We are only trained on report writing in initial training and they tell you to ‘keep it short and cover your arse’,” he wrote.”

Meanwhile.

Last November, Mr Clifford reported on a separate matter – that of a protected disclosure made in the Irish Prison Service on September 20, 2017, concerning an allegation of sexual harassment, a payout in compensation and “the deployment of the individual involved in another state agency where he has contact with minors”.

A month later, in December, Mr Clifford reported that, at that point, no investigation into the disclosure had been launched.

Mr Clifford reported:

“According to the disclosure, a manager in the IPS performed sexual acts in front of a female employee without her consent in 2011 and 2012. The woman reported the incident but when she revealed she had previously been in a relationship with the man, no investigation was conducted, according to the disclosure.

The woman later took legal action over the sex acts and the failure to investigate and the case was settled. The Irish Examiner understands the settlement was just short of €100,000.

The Irish Examiner has established that the man and woman in the case have both left the IPS, as per alleged in the disclosure.

Three sources within the IPS confirmed that the woman was involved in litigation with the service, but the exact details are not clear. It is also established that the man at the centre of the allegations has been working for an agency which deals with minors.

Despite the department having these facts since late September, no investigation has been launched.”

In relation to this protected disclosure, this morning, Mr Clifford reported that the matter was  handed to solicitors McCann Fitzgerald to investigate after his reports on it last year.

He added:

“Now, nearly a year later, the investigation is reportedly completed but no final report on the matter has yet been written.

With a record like that for handling protected disclosures, is it any wonder that this prison officer used the legal mechanism of a sworn affidavit to make his claims?”

Further to this…

On November 8 last.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy received replies to several questions put to the Justice Minister.

In one question, Ms Murphy asked if disciplinary proceedings have been initiated within the Irish Prison Service within the past three years “specifically with respect to incidences of sexual harassment and or assault”.

She asked, if there were, how many incidences were there, the rank or ranks and/or grade of staff involved and if the matters were resolved.

Mr Flanagan responded with the following to Ms Murphy:

“I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the Service is committed to protecting dignity and respect across the organisation and addresses complaints of bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment under the Dignity at Work policy for the Irish Civil Service.

I am informed that in the period referred to by the Deputy, one such complaint against a member of staff was upheld after investigation under the Dignity at Work Policy and disciplinary proceedings were initiated on foot of that.

A further three complaints by staff members are currently being addressed under the Dignity at Work Policy.

The complaints concerned have involved staff at Chief Officer, Prison Officer and Prison Administration and Support Officer Grades.”

Meanwhile…

In April 2017, Ms Murphy asked the then Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald about the number of private investigation firms hired by the Department of Justice since 2012.

Ms Fitzgerald replied:

“I can confirm that there were no private investigation firms hired by bodies under the aegis of my Department during the period referred to by the Deputy.”

Officer raises concern over jail deaths (Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner)

Protected disclosures are everything but for prison officers (Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner)

Concern over prison death records (Joe Leogue, Irish Examiner)

Inmate deaths lead to call for culture change (Joe Leogue, Irish Examiner)

Yesterday: The Turn Of The Screws