Prisoner unable to leave cell because no walking stick was available
Disabled prisoners often left isolated in cells due to a lack of supports – report

Disabled prisoners often left isolated in cells due to a lack of supports – report

Disabled prisoners often left isolated in cells due to a lack of supports – report

Disabled prisoners often left isolated in cells due to a lack of supports – report

Disabled prisoners often left isolated in cells due to a lack of supports – report

Disabled prisoners often left isolated in cells due to a lack of supports – report
Disabled prisoners often left isolated in cells due to a lack of supports – report
  • 2020-01-15 01:10:08 4 days ago
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Disabled prisoners are often left isolated in their cells due to a lack of supports, with one prisoner unable to leave his cell because a walking stick was not available, a new report has found.

Meanwhile, visually-impaired staff do not have enough access to material that they can read, while, the deaf suffer “extremely limited” access to sign language interpreters and are not given the use of video phones to talk to their families.

One prisoner said staff refused to push him in his wheelchair due to a lack of insurance.

Bullying of disabled prisoners was flagged as a particular concern. “They’d be preyed upon,” said a prison staff member. “They’d be seen as weak . . . but that’s the law of the jail, that’s the law of the jungle.”

The experiences are highlighted in a new Irish Penal Reform Trust report, Making Rights Real for People with Disabilities in Detention, published on Wednesday.

Researchers conducted 31 indepth interviews in three prisons, including with 16 prisoners who represented the experiences of the long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impaired.

Because of its relatively small sample size, it examines general trends and individual accounts as opposed to the prevalence of disability within the system. The testimony of prisoners was “generally substantiated” by staff and other interviewees.

Deaf prisoners routinely had no one to communicate with, and often only had an hour or so a week with someone who was proficient in Irish Sign Language

“There were reports that prisoners were effectively confined to their cells due to the inaccessibility of the prison environment, and had services brought to them,” the report found.

“This was seen to increase isolation experienced by prisoners with disabilities, many of whom had spent time in isolation or in safety observation cells.”

Prisoners are also said to miss out due to significant difficulties navigating services, while the cell environment is challenging.

“Access to sign language interpretation for deaf prisoners was extremely limited, making communication with prison staff and other prisoners almost impossible,” the report noted.

“Deaf prisoners routinely had no one to communicate with, and often only had an hour or so a week with someone who was proficient in Irish Sign Language, which amounted to communication deprivation and de facto isolation of deaf prisoners.”

We heard examples of prisoners making phone calls for deaf and hard of hearing prisoners, cleaning other prisoners’ cells, providing emotional support...

It noted in particular the lack of video call facilities. One prison had the technology available to those with family abroad but did not allow deaf prisoners use it.

A particular area of concern identified was the lack of access to services and education and employment opportunities, due to accessibility and other issues.

Although all of the facilities visited had cells designated as appropriate for the mobility impaired, many others do not have such options.

Several prisoners praised the efforts of staff. However, others are often left to rely on fellow inmates for support.

“We heard examples of prisoners making phone calls for deaf and hard of hearing prisoners, cleaning other prisoners’ cells, providing emotional support, providing advocacy, transcription and even helping in medical emergencies.”

IPRT director general Fíona Ní Chinnéide said the Irish Prison Service (IPS) had demonstrated a commitment to its equality and human rights obligations by facilitating the research.

“It is important that this commitment is now met with resourcing and implementation of the report recommendations, in order to address the significant barriers faced by people with disabilities in prison,” she said.

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Disabled prisoners often left isolated in cells due to a lack of supports – report

How foundations of minority Fine Gael-led Government were steadily eroded

How foundations of minority Fine Gael-led Government were steadily eroded

The foundations underpinning the Fine Gael-led minority government of the 32nd Dáil were weak to begin with but have steadily been eroded in the four years since the last general election.

Initially led by Enda Kenny, with Leo Varadkar assuming the leadership of Fine Gael and the taoiseach’s office in mid-2017, the Fine Gael-led minority Government was allowed function thanks to the acquiescence of Fianna Fáil.

Micheál Martin turned down Fine Gael’s offer of a full-blown coalition in 2016 and instead entered into a confidence-and-supply agreement, which saw his party abstain in budget and confidence motions in the Dáil.

But by last month, it had become obvious the Government could no longer continue even with the confidence-and-supply deal.

Over the weekend, as he prepared the ground for Tuesday’s announcement, Varadkar said the tightening Dáil numbers meant the circumstances had changed since he had previously maintained he wanted the election to be held in May 2020.

Last month’s Dáil motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy was defeated by the Government by 56 votes to 53, thanks to the support of three Opposition Independents who wanted to avoid a pre-Christmas election: Michael Lowry, Denis Naughten and Noel Grealish.

Yet, even though the Government survived, the Murphy vote will be seen as the clarifying point that signalled the Varadkar administration had come to an end.

Former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy, who was embroiled in controversy over his Dáil attendance and expenses, resigned after the vote.

It reduced the Government’s total strength to 53 out of a total of 158 TDs. In contrast, 59 TDs voted for Kenny as taoiseach at the successful third attempt on May 6th, 2016. Fine Gael then had 50 seats, but lost Frances Fitzgerald, who was elected to the European Parliament; Peter Fitzpatrick, who resigned the party whip; then Dara Murphy in the intervening period.

Resigned

Naughten was Minister for Communications but resigned from Government in October 2018 and Clare Independent TD Michael Harty, who voted for Kenny as taoiseach and supported the Government at times in its early stages, increasingly voted with the Opposition.

Along with Fitzgerald, three other ex-TDs were elected to the European Parliament last May, and the resulting byelections returned two Fianna Fáil TDs as well as one each for Sinn Féin and the Green Party. The byelections in themselves did not weaken the Government’s Dáil position, given Fianna Fáil’s policy of abstention.

Senior Fine Gael figures have insisted they wanted a summer election to allow Varadkar campaign in the sun, yet the Taoiseach made the most of the hand available to him

Thomas Pringle, the Donegal TD who was absent for the Murphy no-confidence vote, was unlikely to miss another motion against Minister for Health Simon Harris. Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness said he would no longer abstain on such motions, a point Varadkar made to Micheál Martin in their ultimately failed efforts to agree an election date.

‘Precarious’

The past week saw the rural Independent group of deputies confirm they intended to table a no-confidence motion in Harris in early February, and the numbers were certain to be, in Varadkar’s words, “precarious”.

It became obvious he had to call an election on his own terms or be brought down in a confidence vote.

The Taoiseach began preparing the ground for the February 8th election after the Murphy vote.

He began saying the election would be held at the “right time for the country”, instead of his previous position that he wanted a May 2020 poll, and asked Martin to nominate some Fianna Fáil TDs to support the Government to make up for McGuinness breaking with the confidence-and-supply deal, a politically impossible ask.

Senior Fine Gael figures have always insisted they wanted a summer election to allow Varadkar campaign in the sun, yet the Taoiseach yesterday made the most of the hand available to him.

With Britain leaving the EU a week before polling day, he sought to frame the campaign around what he has called his Government’s “magnum opus”.

Having resisted pressure from within his party on a number of occasions to go to the country during previous gaps in the tortured Brexit process, Varadkar said a “window of opportunity” had opened to “have a new government in place before the next European Council meeting in March with a strong mandate” for the negotiations on the future trade agreement between the EU and UK.

One in 15 cars taking NCT unsafe to drive on public roads

One in 15 cars taking NCT unsafe to drive on public roads

One in every 15 cars submitted for the national car test last year were found to be dangerously defective and unsafe to be driven on public roads.

Figures published by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) show more than 92,000 vehicles examined at NCT test centres during 2019 were found to be in an unroadworthy condition.

A total of 92,523 cars were classified as “fail dangerous”.

They represent 6.6 per cent of almost 1.4 million cars tested at 47 test centres nationwide last year.

Although the vast majority subsequently obtained a NCT, a total of 2,791 vehicles were still found to be dangerously defective following a retest.

According to the RSA, tyres in poor condition and problems with brakes are the main reason why cars are deemed dangerous to drive on public roads.

An authority spokesperson said the large number of cars being classified as “fail dangerous” was not surprising.

As a result of the implementation of an EU directive on roadworthiness tests on motor vehicles since 2018, all defects are now classified as either minor, major or dangerous.

‘Still unaware’

“Many motorists are still unaware about the change in classification and there is a need to educate car owners that there are some problems which will have their vehicle deemed unsafe to drive on public roads and that they need to take the issue seriously,” the spokesperson said.

A recent survey by the RSA indicated that 40 per cent of all car owners used the NCT as a diagnostic tool for problems with their vehicles, which the RSA claims explains the higher failure rate for the initial test.

“People need to stop using the NCT to identify problems with their car. They should be getting it serviced regularly by a mechanic as it is a much more detailed examination. The NCT can never be a substitute for a full service,” said the RSA spokesperson.

Any motorist detected driving an unroadworthy vehicle is liable for a fine of up to €2,000 and five penalty points and/or a three-month jail term

Neither the RSA nor Applus, the operator of the NCT, collect information on the number of people who still drive away from NCT centres in an unroadworthy vehicle or who arrange to have their car towed away.

The RSA spokesperson said anyone who continued to drive a vehicle after it was deemed dangerously defective was “irresponsible”.

Any motorist whose vehicle is classified as “fail dangerous” is advised that it is unsafe to be used on the road “under any circumstances”.

A sticker stating “failed dangerous” is placed on such vehicles by NCT inspectors at the end of a test.

‘Illegal’

“It is illegal for a vehicle to be driven on a public road with dangerous defects which means the driver may incur penalty points and a court appearance if caught by An Garda Síochána,” the RSA spokesperson said.

Any motorist detected driving an unroadworthy vehicle is liable for a fine of up to €2,000 and five penalty points and/or a three-month jail term.

The RSA said gardaí were automatically notified via the National Vehicle and Driver File of any vehicle that was overdue its test by three months.

Such information is also now available to gardaí at roadside checkpoints. They are equipped with hand-held devices for checking on the licensing status of drivers and vehicles stopped.

RSA figures show 50 per cent of all cars which underwent a NCT last year passed the full test – up from 49.1 per cent in 2018.

In addition to the “fail dangerous” vehicles, more than 603,000 other cars also failed the test.

The figures indicate that more than 41,500 vehicles that did not pass the full test were not submitted for a retest.

Cars first registered in 2015, 2013, 2011, 2009 and any older vehicles were due for testing last year.

The RSA confirmed recently it had required Applus to pilot changes to the testing of a vehicle’s suspension.

Fatal traffic collision

It follows a €31,000 award by Cork Circuit Civil Court against Applus for failing to spot a faulty suspension in a vehicle, which was subsequently involved in a fatal traffic collision.

A post-collision report found the vehicle to be unroadworthy both at the time of its involvement in a fatal crash near Fota, Co Cork, in December 2012 and when it passed the NCT seven months earlier.

The driver of the vehicle, Cork woman Amanda O’Flaherty (26), was killed after the car veered suddenly into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

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