Bohemian Foundation facilitates football friendly between Oireachtas team and Mountjoy inmates

Oireachtas team

A group of 12 TDs and senators who make up the Oireachtas football team went inside the walls of Mountjoy Prison for a game of football against the inmates.

Organised by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and The Bohemian Foundation, the prisoners who took part are all from the prison’s progression unit. This is where the men who are actively engaging with rehabilitation, education, and social services are housed.

The pandemic impacted the ability of Thomas Hynes and the Foundation to do their work but this match was one of the first steps in the programmes recommencing.

The match was played fairly and in high spirits and ultimately the prisoners won 9-5, but only after a comeback that saw the Oireachtas team draw level at 5-5 before wilting on the Mountjoy tarmac.

Labour TD and Bohs supporter, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said that there was a huge appetite among politicians from every political party to take part in the game once the idea was floated.

“It was something that I felt quite strongly about doing, we have a football team here in the Oireachtas and I’ve been determined to use it as an outreach,” Deputy Ó Ríordáin said.

“The link with Thomas Hynes and The Bohemian Foundation was perfect to organise the game, and the Mountjoy governors were hugely welcoming and enthusiastic” he added.

Bringing the outside world into the prison is an important part of how Mountjoy and The Foundation try to help the inmates. This helps to destigmatise the conversation that surrounds prisoners and the perception that some people may hold of them.

Deputy Governor of Mountjoy Prison, Donnacha Walsh, said that the match was a great event for the prison and that it helps remind the inmates that they are not forgotten.

“We always try to break down the barriers between custody and the community because we believe that it gives the guys here the best chance possible at keeping on the right track once they are released from prison,” he said

“It shows them that there are opportunities for them to continue the positive progress they make here,” he added.

Sinn Féin TD and Shamrock Rovers fan, Chris Andrews, said that the match offered great insight into the workings of the prison and the Irish Prison Service.

“It’s a huge credit to Bohemians and The Foundation for carrying this out,” Deputy Andrews said.

He added that it was important for politicians to go see and meet with the people that they are making decisions about.

“The governor indicated that he had been in touch with judges and that they had never been into Mountjoy to see what it’s like and be aware of what they were committing to people,” he said.

“So it’s important that we, as politicians, are aware of what we’re doing and the consequences of out actions and the laws that we pass, and events like this give us that insight,” he explained.

Labour Senator, Marie Sherlock, also took part in the match and she explained that this match cannot be a one-off event, it needs to be the starting point on how politicians engage with prisoners and with the Government on penal reform.

“I have huge admiration for Thomas Hynes and The Bohemian Foundation for their leadership on this issue. When a community club like Bohs says they are helping prisoners it sends out a strong message to everyone else,” Senator Sherlock said.

She thinks that community organisations do a lot of positive work in prisons around the country and that Government should engage with them to see what approaches work.

Chris Andrews thinks that the shift by Irish football clubs, led by Bohemians, to focusing on how they can help out in their own communities has been a catalyst for the growing popularity of the League of Ireland.

“Irish football is changing in front of our eyes and Bohemians have set the bar in terms of community engagement.

“It’s fantastic to see other clubs like my own, Shamrock Rovers, and the likes of St Pat’s, Sligo Rovers, Drogheda United, and many others following that lead and becoming very involved in their communities,” he said.

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