HC Deb 18 May 1868 vol 192 c423

said, he wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether it is the fact that a prisoner in Mount joy Prison, who declared himself a Unitarian, was ordered by the Governor to select his religion as Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Presbyterian, and that on his declining to do so he was sentenced to penal cell, with bread and water diet?


Sir, I presume the question of the hon. Gentleman refers to the case of a convict named John Brophy alias Pagan O'Leary, who was received in the Mountjoy Convict Prison on the 31st of July, 1865. With respect to this man the Governor applied for instructions under the following remarkable circumstances—and I may say it is the only case of the kind which has ever occurred—The convict stated he was of no religion, and had never attended a place of worship. According to a Return from another gaol in which he had been confined, it appeared he had not attended any place of worship since his committal, and refused to be instructed in any religion. Under these circumstances the Director in a minute to the Governor ordered the convict Brophy to select his religion immediately. The Governor sent for Brophy and told him what was required of him; but the latter objected to go to any place of worship, saying he did not believe in any religion, and would not select one. He was therefore put upon penal diet for three days, and on the 4th of August, two days after he had been put upon the penal diet, he was received into the hospital, where he remained for five days. After he left the hospital he was again placed on penal diet for three days, and then he selected the Roman Catholic religion. The prisoner was then sent to his task work. I may say that penal diet is not bread and water, though it is considerably lower than is given to the other prisoners. Since my attention has been called to this case, I have caused inquiries to be made as to what is the practice in other branches of the convict service, and I shall be able to state at come future period what rule—for I certainly think that some sort of rule is necessary—shall be made to govern such cases in future.