Words by Ryan Clarke
The Bohemian Foundation put on its annual senior citizens Christmas dinner in Mountjoy Prison recently to great success.
The event is aimed at bringing senior citizens inside Mountjoy to help de-stigmatise people in custody who have shown a desire to rehabilitate themselves before they are released.
The Christmas dinner was made and served entirely by a team of people in custody who work in the Mountjoy kitchens.
The Bohemian Foundation is the volunteer community organisation from Bohemian Football club.
Along with its work inside Mountjoy, it has a number of other programmes helping children and adults with learning disabilities.
This is the seventh year that the Bohemian Foundation has put on the event, and the numbers attending have steadily grown over the years.
Initially, it was just a small group from Cabra who attended the dinner but, now, they are joined by groups from Finglas and Phibsborough and they now number 70 in total.
The atmosphere in the dining room was laid back, with conversation flowing everywhere you looked – the prisoners laughing and joking with the senior citizens the whole time.
However, the usual singsong after dinner was brought to another level when award-winning opera singer, David Scott, stunned the room with some traditional Christmas tunes.
His performance inspired both Governors of Mountjoy to take to the stage and they were in fine voice alongside Cllr Larry O’Toole, who was deputising as Lord Mayor.
Governor Eddie Mullins outlined the importance of being able to show senior citizens that the prisoners are capable of turning their lives around.
“This event is about bringing everyone from the community in to show the good work going on here,” he said.
“The fun that people are having tonight is fantastic, and to be able to show them we’re not all monsters in here is brilliant. This is true rehabilitation.”
With the evening coming to an end, Theresa Walsh is crowned the singer of the night by David Scott.
She praised the behaviour of the prisoners throughout the evening and said that the food was lovely.
She added, “We look forward to this every year and it’s brilliant to meet new people and the singsong we have is great. I didn’t expect to win tonight.”
The work of the Bohemian Foundation is vital to Dublin according to Cllr O’Toole. He said that he was privileged to represent the Lord Mayor at the event and praised the prisoners and the staff of Mountjoy.
Dr Ian Marder, who lectures Criminology in Maynooth University and Dr Laura Booi, a research fellow at Trinity College Dublin’s Institute of Neuroscience also attended the dinner.
Dr Marder stressed that the most important thing the Bohemian Foundation does is bring the outside community inside the prison walls.
Dr Booi, whose work focuses on dementia, said: “It is terrific seeing the interaction between the people in custody and the senior citizens. The Bohemian Foundation is a valuable asset to Dublin and I look forward to collaborating with them in the future.”
Bohemian Foundation President, Thomas Hynes, explained he was honoured to host such distinguished guests and the Foundation is excited to work with them in the future.
“Tonight’s dinner was a huge success once again. It’s great to see the senior citizens and prisoners being able to chat and joke with one another.
“It shows the huge potential of rehabilitation when done correctly,” Hynes said.