Prisoners do thyme, as jails ready to bloom
Hardened criminals will soon have swapped their Glocks for garden hoes as they tend to the growth of the begonias which have been ordered by the Irish Prison Service (IPS).
The green-fingered lags will be getting their gardening tools ready after the service placed an order for thousands of flower seeds, including fuchsias, petunias and violas.
The IPS has sought tenders for the provision of over 19,000 flower seeds for its gardens across prisons in the Irish prison system.
In total, the prison service has included 87 different varieties of flower seed in its tender.
The prison service is seeking the seeds for growing flowers in polytunnels at the closed medium-security Midlands, Wheatfield, and Castlerea prisons as well as at the low security open prisons at Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.
Flower seeds are also to be provided as part of the tender at the female closed-security prison at Dochas, on the Mountjoy campus.
Prisoners at Mountjoy, Portlaoise, Limerick and Cork prisons will be missing out in the gardening stakes.
According to an IPS spokesman, an average of 82 prisoners tend to the gardens/grounds/polytunnels across the prisons at any one time.
The service is seeking firms to supply flower seeds over a two-year period.
Working in the gardens will allow the prisoners get away from the hum-drum of prison life and maybe give them time to reflect on the crimes that got them incarcerated in the first instance.
Ireland's best-known gardener, Gerry Daly is in no doubt as to the therapeutic value of gardening.
"Human beings have an innate connection to nature and the soil that pre-dates civilised communities being in place and we derive satisfaction whether consciously or subconsciously from gardening.
He added: "No matter what the context, people working with the soil and nature will get benefit and enjoy gardening."
The Irish Prison Service has confirmed that firms tendering for the contract must have annual revenues in excess of €100,000.
The closing date for tenders is August 5.