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President Higgins tells women prisoners: 'I never underestimate how difficult the time you spend here can be'

“Your opinions and views matter and your voices should be heard,” he said.

Michael D Higgins at IIEA Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

WOMEN PRISONERS AT the Dóchas Centre, the all-female prison located at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, was visited today by President Michel D Higgins.

This was his first visit to the prison since he was elected in 2011. At a ceremony today he awarded five prisoners with the President’s Award, with each getting a Gaisce Bronze Award.

Addressing the prisoners today, he said:

I never underestimate how difficult the time you spend here can sometimes be, or the pain that separation from loved ones can bring.This Centre was aptly named Dóchas, meaning hope, and the most important thing about the difficult road many of you are trying to take in your lives, is that there can be hope that you will succeed.

He said that during his visit he felt there was a great sense of hope at the prison.

“Hope that women can overcome the problems and difficult experiences in their lives and have happier, healthier and safer futures together with their families, their friends and their communities.”

President Higgins said that upon his election he had specifically named those in prison as an important group of citizens he wanted to include during his presidency.

“Your opinions and views matter and your voices should be heard, particularly when it comes to the design and administration of the services which you use every day,” he said.

During his time at Dóchas he shared a meal with the prisoners and also met with members of the United Voice prisoners’ council, which provides a platform for prisoner views to be taken into account within the prison.

I strongly believe that if imprisonment is to be expected to help people become better citizens then it must begin from the premise of respect.Structures such as prisoner councils are an excellent vehicle to help create an environment of trust and respect and to help foster individual and group responsibility.

The president also acknowledged all the service workers, staff and other agencies that assist at the prison and said that great strides had been made in the prisons in the last 20 years, particularly in relation to overcrowding, he said.

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