Henry McKean talks to prisoners at the Dóchas Centre as they welcome athletes from the Special Olympics team
Something magical happened in Dóchas women's prison at Mountjoy, Dublin on Monday.
The female prisoners played basketball against Team Ireland's Special Olympics Women's gold medal winning team. The inmates have been raising money ahead of the sports charity annual collection day, which takes place on Friday the 22nd of April.
The prisoners and staff have being raising money by organising a cake sale, a walkathon and a triathlon. Even if the prisoners have very little or no money, they want to give back to the outside community and are helping build towards the €650,000 which the Special Olympics hopes to raise.
I was privileged to be invited into the maximum security prison, and all there were very welcoming. There was a little pushing and shoving between them in a jokey way, a bit like a secondary school at times, but overall it was great fun.
Special Olympics Volunteer Pam Beacom, who was at the prison event, said "there is a wonderful connection" between the athletes and the prisoners, something which was echoed by the comments of all those concerned on the day.
One prisoner said, "just because we are in prison doesn't mean we are bad people, we are good people. I'm a good person and I have a heart", while another prisoner said "the girls are doing a sponsored dance, a beauty day, and are just donating what they can."
Sarah Byrne, Special Olympic Athlete, highlighted that it was "a great opportunity to come into the prison, they were very kind to let us in", but Chelsea, one of the prison officers, noted that it was a two-way street.
"There is a lot of negativity in custody," said Chelsea, "but this is something very positive to come out of it, bringing outsiders in engages them. A euro will go a long way, these prisoners have very little money."
Matt English, CEO of Special Olympics paid tribute to that effect, saying, that "this is a long-standing relationship and it's been galvanised today [...] it's inspirational, and it's all part of improving your life, showing that sport can make a real difference, and Special Olympics proves that every day."