Thursday 19 October 2017

Gardening helping prisoners find right path

Maggie Clune. Photo: Mark Condren
Maggie Clune. Photo: Mark Condren
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

The benefits of spending hours potting plants and coaxing clematis and sweetpeas up trellis are numerous.

But for the prisoners and ex-offenders working with Pace, gardening is not simply a hobby, it is a way of reintegrating and rooting yourself into the world outside.

Pace is a voluntary sector organisation that works with prisoners, offenders, ex-prisoners and ex-offenders as they return to life outside.

This year, Pace will return to Ireland's largest gardening festival for the third year running with its postcard garden Reflection of Life.

The garden centres around a water feature.

According to Maggie Clune of Pace, it is intended to reflect the journey that the prisoners have been on.

"The water moves from quite a natural setting to a more suburban one," she said.

"It shows that everything begins pure, but along the way, we encounter obstacles and challenges, the water can become muddied but ultimately we learn from our mistakes."

Ms Clune said being part of the project has been of huge psychological importance to those involved.

"Working in gardening is great because it is a hands-on activity. It is practical and tactile and working with your hands is therapeutic," she said.

"It is also a great way of creating something of value and worth and giving that back to the community. You are literally seeing something you are working on come to fruition."

She believes appearing in the festival and being judged on the skill of the work means that offenders and ex-offenders are "on an even playing field. They are being judged as everyone else".

Tickets for bloom can be purchased at bloominthepark.com.

Irish Independent

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