​The Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton TD, today “turned the sod” to mark the commencement of the development of a new Horse Welfare Centre located at Castlerea Prison. - October 18th, 2019

​The Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton TD, today “turned the sod” to mark the commencement of the development of a new Horse Welfare Centre located at Castlerea Prison.  The new Centre is being developed on grounds adjacent to Castlerea Prison and will see the introduction of a new innovative prisoner programme, where prisoners will learn practical skills that will assist in securing employment as stable hands and other such positions in the equine industry post release. The new centre, which originated from an idea by Jonathan Irwin, founder of the Jack & Jill charity, will be run in collaboration with a partner from within the equine industry.

Speaking about the new initiative Minster Stanton said “I am delighted that this new innovative project is commencing at Castlerea Prison. A key objective of the programme is to provide offenders with practical skills while also teaching compassion through the care of animals. I want to recognise and thank Jonathan Irwin for his vision and drive, which as a result, has ensured that this project has moved from being a unique idea to reality. This project will benefit many offenders and will make our communities safer in the future“.

In relation to prisoner participants the Minister said “Prisoners face many barriers to successful reintegration back into society and their communities. One of the final barriers or fences to be climbed is finding employment post release. This project, will give participants many positive benefits in terms of self – development, preparation for employment, positive impact and physical and mental wellbeing and these will be vital as they seek to turn their lives around after release

Jonathan Irwin has engaged in an extensive fund raising initiative within the Horse Racing community to support the running of the programme which will be operated by a provider from within the industry.

Governor of Castlerea Prison Martin Reilly said that Castlerea was delighted to be chosen as the location for the new national Centre. “This is an exciting new venture for Castlerea Prison and the Irish Prison Service which will have many positive benefits for the participants but ultimately for our communities who will be safer by the reduction in reoffending“.

Public safety is achieved by working innovatively with offenders and addressing the primary causes of their offending behaviour. Lack of Education, access to healthcare, homelessness, substance misuse and addiction are all causes of offending and services are available across the estate to address these issues. In addition, finding and securing meaningful and purposeful work and activity after release is absolutely essential to give offenders real hope and the opportunity to have a different, better life for themselves and their families after prison” said Governor Reilly.

It is anticipated that a part-time post of facility manager would be provided to support the delivery of the horse care programme and coordination of an accredited course which has been endorsed by the Racing Academy & Centre of Education (RACE) – Ireland’s academy for the horse racing industry and international jockey training.

The project which will take approximately 6 months to complete consists of the construction of a single structure ‘American Stable’ which also includes the following requirements:

  • Single stables for 10 horses with integrated Tack Room, Fodder storage and general storage, all to have standard level of fit out i.e. instable water, adequate lighting etc.
  • One exercise arena approx. 50×50 metres sand based cover in wood chip and associated stud fencing.
  • Staff and prisoner facilities with canteen, toilets, office.
  • Large concrete apron for horse boxes to have adequate turning circles etc.
  • Suitable manure storage and run off from stable and for mucking out stables.
  • Medium level secure perimeter fence with CCTV coverage from Prisons Control room, with intruder alarm.
  • Adequate outside lighting and ancillary services.