herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

Gerry O'Carroll: Larry's back from holidays as those who can't pay fines are jailed

LARRY MURPHY'S back. And why not? Because when you're a rapist and kidnapper in this country you get early release, a helping hand from a prison priest and the opportunity to cavort around Spain for nine months.

And then nip home for a new passport before resuming your travels.

Looking fit and tanned after his sojourn in the sun, serial killer suspect Murphy calmly took a Ryanair flight home last week. In doing so he's plunged the women of Ireland into fear again.

He was convicted of rape and attempted murder, but he's a suspect in the cases of a number of disappeared women. Murphy has refused treatment and remains extremely dangerous. This week he is swanning around Dublin, a free man, when he should be in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison.

He should not have been granted early release, given the gravity of his crimes.

News of his return came as it emerged that 541 people were sent to prison last year for failing to pay small fines like TV licence and parking charges.

If you want to know what the Government's law and order priorities are, there you go.

Look after our hero carers... not spoiled prisoners

THE dreadful effects of funding cuts for our nation's carers were exposed in a shocking Prime Time Investigates programme this week.

The elderly, the sick -- the most vulnerable in our society -- are suffering because of cash cutbacks.

These cuts have seriously affected the quality of life for these people, the most deserving of our citizens, who depend on their home carers to give them some quality of life. Some carers are skipping meals to make ends meet.

The situation is a national disgrace. The cuts, and their effects, are impossible to justify.

Caring for the vulnerable is a cornerstone of a democratic, First World society. And, in Ireland, it's crumbled.

I could not help comparing this appalling state of affairs with the annual report this week on the state of the country's prisons.

Budgies

The Inspector of Prisons' report, as expected, criticised the Prison Service for conditions on the inside.

Severe overcrowding, unacceptable cell conditions, broken equipment and lack of drug treatment were all cited.

In a masterstroke of irony, on the very day the report was published a group of inmates in Mountjoy Prison staged a dirty protest, emptying chamber pots on landings at the jail.

And what led to their disgusting revolt? It appears that these little darlings were not allowed to take a post-breakfast snooze, which they are wont to do. This kip lasts from breakfast to lunch, and has seen inmates skip classes to sleep.

Up until now, that is. The new no-nonsense governor, Ned Whelan, had his staff try to rouse these wasters out of their beds.

The infantile inmates then threw their toys out of the pram, so to speak -- in this case their chamber pots, and contents, out the doors of their cell.

Fair play to Whelan. Years of appeasing prisoners have seen our jails become dangerous and dysfunctional institutions. We've seen murders ordered from prisons on concealed phones, contraband smuggled in, even budgies being kept as pets.

I recall patrolling prisons in the 1970s as a young garda and seeing the best of food and recreational equipment provided to prisoners -- and that was over 30 years ago.

Prisoners may slop out in certain prisons, but after doing so they settle down to DVDs and PlayStations -- and three square meals a day.

Let's be clear. Prisons are not nice places, nor are they supposed to be. They should be tough, those who are put inside them are criminals, the majority of them recidivist offenders.

So with all due respect to the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, I shed no tears for the inmates in the country's prisons.

The inmates are the ones breaking into homes and cars, or worse, attacking people. They deserve hard, not soft, time.

Mattress

So let's ask ourselves. When it comes to dividing up our country's now-meagre resources, where do you want to see the cash go?

To the desperate carer stretched to breaking point, or to a housebreaking thug on A division who wants a comfy new mattress?

It's not politically correct to say it but at the end of the day I would ensure that every carer in the country is looked after before I would spend a single cent on an inmate in Mountjoy or any other prison.

It's a privilege to make the cut for hometown festival

A SPECIAL event is taking place in my hometown this week. Listowel Writers' Week, one of the top literary festivals in Europe, kicks off today.

Even better, this year is the 40th anniversary of the festival, which was founded by, among others, playwright John B Keane and Bryan MacMahon.

A number of literary heavyweights are set to appear this week, including Richard Dawkins, Neil Jordan and John Connolly.

But the great thing about the week is that it is not for highbrows. Anyone who loves to hear a poem, sing a song or enjoy a reading is welcome.

Readers may forgive me if I mention that yours truly has been asked to speak on Friday evening. With so many world class figures floating around it will be a daunting task for a scribbler like myself.

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