St Nicholas Trust was welcomed as a full member of Children of Prisoners Europe at our General Assembly in 2014. St Nicholas Trust is a family support group which was established in Cork, Ireland as a response to the needs of the relatives of those in prison, who sought help and information from various services within the prison. This year, St Nicholas Trust has been busy focusing on project development and continuing with their habitual support and information activities. The hospitality suite in Cork Prison continues to operate efficiently despite limited resources; the service deals with approximately 30 users per day/8000 annually. A new prison building is to be opened in Cork at the end of 2015 and the Trust hopes that the visiting service can be significantly improved and extended; project development is therefore currently a key activity for the organisation.
As part of its ongoing information activities, the organisation published a new booklet designed to support children visiting a parent in prison. The story booklet for children of prisoners entitled “Visiting Dad in Prison” was launched by Mrs Sabine Higgins, actress and wife of the President of Ireland, in May 2015. The booklet is being distributed in visitor waiting rooms throughout the country.
The booklet launch also prompted some important media interest in the issues faced by prisoner’s families. As a result the organisation participated in the Sean O’Rourke Show on RTE Radio 1 in May and several family members with a relative in prison were interviewed for the programme which was broadcast state-wide. The programme can be listened to here: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/today-with-sean-o-rourke/programmes/2015/0515/701304-today-with-sean-o-rourke-friday-15-may-2015/.
Finally, the Trust is actively involved in research being carried out in the Law School in University College Cork. It is currently collaborating on a project examining the rights of children to contact and visitation when a parent is in prison, funded by the Irish Research Council. As part of wider research on this issue researchers in U.C.C. also recently held a working seminar focusing on the legal entitlements of children with imprisoned parents in Ireland and further afield. Children of Prisoners Europe director, Liz Ayre, took part in what was a cutting edge and innovative workshop, taking the rights of children of prisoners forward in an evolving European child rights context.
For more information on the activities of St. Nicholas Trust, see their website at: www.stnicholastrust.ie