Thursday, 28 June 1973
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Blaney: asked the Minister for Defence whether an inmate (name supplied) of the Curragh detention camp was recently refused parole to attend the funeral of his brother who was killed in a car crash; and, if so, why.
Mr. Donegan: The case received very careful consideration but the granting of temporary release was not considered appropriate. I might mention that attendance at the funeral would have involved travelling outside the country and also that the prisoner in question had served less than three weeks of a five-year sentence.
Mr. Blaney: Is it not a fact that even since this refusal other inmates, who had not been terribly long in, have been given parole to attend funerals of relatives even where it was known that the funeral was not within the boundary of the Twenty-six Counties? This  particular case is one of a long line of applications, most of which have been granted over the years; and, to my knowledge, no parole has ever been broken by any of these Republican prisoners. I cannot understand why an exception should have been made in this case where the brother was tragically killed in England. His time in or anything else would not seem to alter the merit of his case for parole.
Mr. Donegan: I was extremely sorry that, after serious consideration of the matter, the decision that was arrived at had to be arrived at. Indeed, I placed at the disposal of the prisoner anything that was needed in the way of visits or telephone calls or anything like that. I instructed the Governor of the camp to provide him with anything that could possibly alleviate his distress at the time of the death of his brother. The Deputy must remember that the request that was made—I want to be specific on this—was that he should go to Liverpool, where his brother was tragically killed. This would have involved leaving the jurisdiction. The prisoner who was on parole just recently did not leave the jurisdiction. I am not saying that prisoners may not do so, but there would be a risk perhaps in the case of this prisoner that he might be apprehended in Liverpool and that perhaps even an international incident could be caused. I was very sorry that I could not do what I would wish to do but, bearing all the facts in mind and having examined the files very carefully, the decision, which was made in line with the Department of Justice, was the only decision that could be made.
Mr. Blaney: In the more recent case of parole, while we read in the papers that the person on parole did not go outside the jurisdiction, this was not, as I understand it, part of the deal in so far as his parole was concerned, and he was free, so far as our authorities were concerned, to go outside the jurisdiction had he chosen to do so. It was reported that he did not choose to do  so although I have my doubts that he probably——
Mr. Blaney: asked the Minister for Defence whether he has any information concerning alleged rough handling and abusive and degrading treatment of an inmate (name supplied) of the Curragh detention camp on the 27th April, 1973; and, if so, the action that has been taken in the matter.
Mr. Blaney: While I do not doubt the good faith with which the Minister gives the information to the House, I am pretty definite that such treatment, abusive treatment, is being visited upon inmates in the Curragh detention camp and by one particular individual——
Mr. Blaney: I am asking whether the Minister is aware that the person involved in this abusive treatment is the same person who is responsible for the incident mentioned in the next question. I could name him but I really do not want to do so.
Mr. Donegan: I wish to refute any allegation that any member of the Defence Forces, acting as a military policeman in the detention prison at the Curragh, acted in any way improperly in the exercise of his duties. The prisoner in question resisted the search of his cell and assaulted a member of the prison staff with a chair. Two other members of the staff took the chair from the prisoner and removed him to another cell while his own was being inspected. No unnecessary force was used on the prisoner. The governor received no complaint of alleged rough handling or abusive or degrading treatment.
Mr. Blaney: asked the Minister for Defence whether he is aware that on the 27th April, 1973, a Curragh Camp inmate (name supplied) had his ear bitten by an Army sergeant and that as a result of the injury sustained he had to have medical attention including an anti-tetanus injection; and if any action has been taken in the matter.
Mr. Donegan: The prisoner in question struck a member of the prison staff in the course of an inspection of his cell. Subsequently he complained that his ear had been bitten but he refused to be examined by a medical officer. The injection was administered on the following day at the prisoner's own request.
Mr. Blaney: I am sure the Minister accepts that it is not my wish to blacken the members of the Defence Forces who have this disagreeable job to do. Will the Minister accept that in both of these incidents which occurred on the same night that the man complained of in both incidents is one and the same person? This is something which the Minister should investigate further because of the fact that it is the same person who is complained of. It does not appear that anybody else is assaulted when he goes into the cells of prisoners except this particular gentleman who, on both occasions, from the information I have, abused the prisoners. I will give the Minister the name of the persons concerned so that he will investigate it. I am not giving this information to do anybody any harm.
Mr. Donegan: I wish to refute any allegation that any member of the armed forces treats any prisoner improperly. However, if the Deputy wishes to give me any information on matters about which he is concerned I will be happy to accept such information. With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle I should like to give the facts of this case to the House. The prisoner continually kicked the  cell door while the search of other cells was in progress. I have already informed the Deputy that it is necessary at least once a month to search the prison. There were seven escapes last October. The governor ordered that the cell be opened so that the door could be inspected for damage. The prisoner struck the NCO who opened the door. Two other members of the prison staff held the prisoner against the wall of the cell while the door was being inspected and subsequently the prisoner complained that his ear had been bitten. The governor could find no evidence to substantiate this allegation.
The prisoner refused to allow the medical officer to examine him on the occasion in question. On the following day he was given an injection, at his own request. He was seen by the doctor on duty on the evening of the 27th April, 1973. He refused treatment. He was seen on the 28th April by the prison medical officer and was treated for a small laceration on the lobe of the left ear with a surrounding area of inflammation. At his own request he was given a tetanus injection and he made a quick recovery.
Mr. Donegan: The position is that these questions only arrived with me some days ago. As far as I am aware the visiting committee have not been given the subject-matter of these questions. However, I think the Deputy's suggestion is a good one and I will forward these questions, and a copy of the debate, to the visiting committee. I will also forward the information which Deputy Blaney may wish to give me on this matter.
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