Department of Justice denies request from Amnesty International to carry out research on racism in Irish prisons.

The project which is a joint undertaking between Amnesty International and the Irish Penal Reform Trust plans to visit Mountjoy and Cloverhill prisons in Dublin and prisons in Cork and Limerick prisons.

The Department of Justice has refused permission to visit the prisons on the grounds that a survey of this nature is already being carried out by the National Training and Development Institute (NTDI).

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell says he supports the decision of prison management.

I'm quite happy with the steps that we are taking.

Director of Amnesty International Seán Love believes that the current project by the NTDI will not be objective as its terms of reference and funding are provided by the Department of Justice,

They are not a human rights research body.

Amnesty have called on the minister to reconsider his decision, calling his action an embarrassment to Ireland. Amnesty directors from all over the EU have also written to the minister to express their dismay.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 27 November 2002. The reporter is Orla O’Donnell.