"There has been a perceptible change in the atmosphere of the prison since the change of government, but only slight improvement in conditions. The degrading strip-searching is still going on, though on a less regular basis. The authorities no longer bother to use gelegnite detection devices around the prison, as they are assured there is no gelegnite there, yet the strip searching continues though there is clearly no security reason for it.
"On one occasion I myself was taken to the hospital across the road from the jail for an X-ray. I was strip searched before going out, I was handcuffed to two prison officers and accompanied by 9 Gardai.
All 11 came into the X-ray room with me and the handcuffs were removed for about 30 seconds, while the X-ray was actually being taken. The prison officers and the Gardai were standing within 6 feet of me at all times and I was in their sight at all times. Yet when I got back to the jail, they insisted on strip searching me again.
"I mentioned the incident some time afterwards to the prison Governor but did not tell him that I was the person involved. He smiled broadly and reemarked that he was glad his officers were doing a good job.
"Educational facilities are still denied, though some text books on mechanical engineering and on the building trades have been placed in the library. Requests for permission to do correspondence courses or to have outside lecturers brought in have been repeatedly refused.
"Recreational facilities have improved somewhat over the last few months with the opening up of larger recreation halls. Gerry Collins has got a lot of mileage from the installation of the colour televISIOn sets but they are really not that much use to the prisoners as the viewing time is restricted to the period 5.45 to 7.15 p.m. You don't get to see proogrammes of any significance, but you get to know an awful lot about cartoons.
"The denials of there being solitary confinement are absurd. It has been a regular practice over the last several years in Portlaoise to sentence prisoners to periods of up to 2 months in cells by themselves for 22Yz hours a day, the remaining 1% hours being allowed for recreation in the yard on one's own.
"One prisoner, Eamonn Sullivan of Dublin, has spent 6 months out of the last 13 in solitary confinement, and he has had 2 month sentences renewed immediately on the expiry of the first. Like most other prisoners sentenced to "solitary ", he was punished for the most trivial offences. Three weeks ago he was very badly beaten by prison officers and instantly the other prisoners withdrew co-operation in protest. Beatings of this kind are not a frequent occurence, but the strip searching frequently leads to aggro.
"The craft shop, it appears, is about to be re-opened, this time without the requirement that those entering and leaving he strip searched. It is really amazing that after all this time the authorities can finally agree to this slight concession, when for so long they insisted that security demands required strip searching.
"An enquiry remains an urgent necessity into conditions in Portlaoise, both to discover what the present circumstances and practices are like, but also to reveal the appalling, degrading and inhumari treatment prisoners there have suffered these past few years. "