Matt Talbot Community Trust, Dublin. Ph: 01 626 4899.

John Lonergan

A testament from John Lonergan, former Governor of Mountjoy Prison

John Lonergan
Ever since it was founded by Sr. Caoimhin in 1989 I have been a great admirer and supporter of the philosophy and vision underpinning the services provided by the Matt Talbot Trust, originally located in Chapalizod and now situated in the heart of Ballyfermot in Dublin. From as far back as the mid 1980s Sr Caoimhin was a regular visitor to Mountjoy Prison. Her mission was to keep in contact with all the young people from the Ballyfermot area, mostly young men, who ended up in prison, to support them while they were in Mountjoy and to encourage them to make contact with her upon their release. She had recognised way back then that most young people leaving prison had little or no chance of leading crime free lives unless they had ongoing support in the community. This was her main motivation for founding the Matt Talbot Trust. She knew that the young people, and indeed the not so young, needed a meeting place as a first step, and that they needed support and encouragement, education, work training and other activities to keep them occupied. She also recognised that the families of the imprisoned played a crucial supporting role in the men’s and women’s lives, thus she ensured that families were an integral part of the supports provided by the Trust. Indeed when she acquired the land at Ballinscorney her vision was two fold, first of all it would provide work and training facilities for those attending at the Trust, and secondly, it would provide accommodation and recreational facilities for families from the Ballyfermot area to avail of short breaks in the countryside away from the bustle of Ballyfermot’s urban environment. The Mountjoy Community Works Party(made up of men serving time in Mountjoy and released under supervision to work in the community) were privileged in 2002 to be invited to develop the living accommodation and facilities there – it is now known as St Martin’s. I have always regarded the work the Community Works Party undertook at Ballinascorney as its greatest and most significant project.

The Matt Talbot Trust continues to provide vital services and supports for men and women leaving prison and for others who are at risk and need support and help. The Trust is blessed to have a
Director of the calibre of Grainne Jennings at the helm, Grainne has done trojan work over the years to develop and expand the services provided by the Trust, and she has done so despite being starved of the necessary financial resources. She is the unsung hero of the success of the Matt Talbot Trust. I know that Sr Caoimhin is very proud of Grainne’s work and achievements. I would also like to pay tribute to the Board of Management, who over the years have fought tooth and nail to keep the Trust operating, they deserve our appreciation and thanks. Also, the Trust is most fortunate to have wonderful dedicated and talented staff, they are making a most positive difference to the lives of all who attend at the Trust.

I am delighted and honoured to support and endorse the work of the Matt Talbot Trust, way back in 1989 it filled a vacuum, there were very few services available at that time to help and support people leaving prison. The reality is(sad and all as it is to have to say so) that it is even more needed today. Vital community services like those provided by the Matt Talbot Trust have suffered savage cutbacks over the past decade, that it has survived at all is due totally to the dedication and fighting spirit of the Board of Management, Director Grainne and the staff. I have no hesitation in saying that the Matt Talbot Trust has saved the Sate millions of euro over the past 30 years by helping thousands of people to live normal lives in their own community – prevention is still the best and most cost effective approach. It costs 60 to 70 thousand euro per year to keep a person in prison, for a fraction of this money the Matt Talbot Trust helps vulnerable young people to remain in their own communities and to stay away from criminal activities. For this reason the State has a duty to provide adequate financial support to enable the Trust to continue to serve the young people of Ballyfermot.