President Michael D Higgins defends attendance at Wheatfield Prison play
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has said his attendance at a prison play should not be misunderstood as taking away from the gravity of the inmates' crimes.
Wheatfield Prison invited the President to see an in-house production of Oscar Wilde's short story The Happy Prince after an official visit there last December.
The show was put together by 28 inmates - both crew and cast - as part of the west Dublin jail's education unit programme.
They had been working on the production since October.
After watching the play today, President Higgins said he has always been a strong advocate for rehabilitation and support of people on the margins, including those in penal institutions.
"Such programmes not only help the individuals concerned but have a benefit for wider society," he said.
"I am of course conscious and very sensitive to the fact that many people in our prisons have committed violent crimes and caused grave hurt and distress for so many people and I would not wish my support of rehabilitation to be in any way seen to be minimising the gravity of the crimes that have been committed."
Mr Higgins said he had indicated in his inauguration speech that he would make a point of supporting the most excluded in society, including those in institutional care, during his term in office.
"I do believe that all of society benefits from effective programmes of rehabilitation which my visit to Wheatfield today was supporting and I congratulate the prison authorities for their commitment to this constructive work," he added.