HC Deb 10 February 1902 vol 102 cc865-7
MR. M'HUGH (Leitrim, N.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, whether he can explain why Mr. Conor O'Kelly, M.P. for South Mayo, now a prisoner in Castlebar Gaol, has been obliged to sleep on a plank, and was confined to his cell for 22 hours out of 24 each day: What is the diet supplied to him; in what way does his prison treatment differ, in regard to reading and writing materials and visits, from that of an ordinary convict in the same gaol; and is he allowed to write to his friends and to receive letters from them.


Mr. Conor O'Kelly, who was committed to Castlebar Prison on December 18th 1901, under sentence of two calendar months imprisonment for unlawful assembly, was liable under Rule 24 of Local Prison Rules for the first month of his sentence to sleep on a plank bed. He slept, however, on the plank bed for only three nights after his committal, being then supplied with a mattress by order of the medical officer. He has been confined in his cell for 22 hours out of the 24, getting the usual period of two hours exercise in the open air as required by subsection 9, section 109, of 7 Geo. IV., cap. 74. The medical officer has not ordered him any further period of exercise on the ground of health. The diet prescribed by rule for prisoners sentenced to imprisonment without hard labour for two months is class 2 (b) diet for one month and class 3 (b) diet for the remainder of the sentence. These approved dietaries are prescribed under the General Prisons (Ireland) Act, 1877. The medical officer during the first month of Mr. O'Kelly's sentence made the following changes of diet:—Tea in lieu of cocoa for breakfast, 8oz. of bread in lieu of potatoes for dinner, and 8oz. of bread extra daily. During the second month of his sentence the medical officer directed that the class 2 diet should be continued instead of class 3, and that the extras already mentioned should be continued with the addition of one pint of milk extra daily. The governor reports that when Mr. O'Kelly became entitled to third-class diet he requested the medical officer to allow him to continue on second-class diet with the extras, as he said that diet agreed with him, and his request was granted. There are no "convicts"—i.e., prisoners sentenced to penal servitude—in Castlebar Prison. Mr. O'Kelly is subject to the same rules in respect of reading and writing materials, visits, and letters, as other local prisoners. He is entitled to the use of books from the prison library and a slate, but not to newspapers, nor is he entitled to visits or letters during the term of his imprisonment. He has, however, by permission of Government, received one visit from a solicitor on the 6th instant. The governor further reports that, had the prisoner desired to write a letter on business or family affairs of an urgent nature, he would (under the authority vested in him in such cases) have allowed the prisoner to do so, but that the prisoner did not express any such desire. Mr. O'Kelly, a few days after his committal, applied to the Prisons Board for permission to procure certain educational works not in the Castlebar Prison Library, with a view of continuing his University studies. The Board, in order that educated prisoners should not be at a disadvantage by being in a small prison with a limited library, directed that a supply of educational works (mathematics and classics), containing several of the books applied for, should be sent from a larger prison to Castlebar Prison. Mr. O'Kelly has been exempted from the obligation of wearing prison clothing, having been permitted under Rule 28 of the prison rules to wear his own clothing. Mr. O'Kelly, having availed himself of the provisions of section 16 of the Act 19 and 20 Vict., cap. 68, was exempted from labour. Had the prisoner not chosen to avail himself of this exemption he would have been employed five or six hours daily at out-door labour. Mr. O'Kelly, while being treated as the law requires, has applied for and has been accorded every concession allowed by the law.


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his attention has been directed to the fact that when Major Jameson and his confederates were sentenced—


Order, Order! That has nothing to do with the question on the Paper.


Then I will put it down on the Paper for to-morrow.