The Irish Prison Service said that no visits will be facilitated at any prison on Christmas Day this year, as it falls on a Sunday, when the facilities are usually closed to visitors.
A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service (IPS) said that no visiting hours will be available on Christmas Day due to a lack of demand.
“Not having visits on Christmas Eve is borne out of our experience of visitors not wanting to attend the prison on that day,” said the IPS spokesman.
“Overall, the governor is satisfied that there are ample visits opportunities over the festive period. They have also put on visits on two mornings to facilitate more visits.”
A survey by the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) found that approximately 6,000 children have a parent in prison in Ireland on any given day. It said that last year, 204 prisoners — approximately 5% of those serving time in Irish prisons — were granted temporary release for Christmas.
“We would be concerned if there is any reduction in visiting hours, particularly at this time of year which is hard for those on the inside, but particularly so on their families and children on the outside,” said Fíona Ní Chinnéide, deputy executive director of the IPRT.
Ms Ní Chinnéide said that while the transfer to the new Cork Prison has seen an improvement in visiting conditions, the IPRT is concerned that morning visits are no longer available to the families of inmates at the new facility.
In October, in response to a query from Wexford TD Mick Wallace, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed a change to the visiting hours at a number of prisons.
“The Irish Prison Service is making some changes to the visiting timetable across a number of prisons to facilitate the implementation of a number of initiatives that are included in the new strategic plan,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
“This includes a new enhanced approach to staff learning and development, increased access to services for prisoners and increased use of video-link for court appearances.
“To facilitate these new initiatives, a new prison visiting timetable is being introduced across certain closed prisons this month.
“As a result, visits will no longer be held in the mornings, Monday to Friday, in Castlerea Prison, Cork Prison, and Limerick Prison,” she said.