A number of male inmates have been given temporary release from Castlerea Prison to attend the course in Castlerea town, according to sources. Run by the Galway and Roscommon Educational Board, the course offers various modules at the old vocational school in the town.
These include ‘Child Health & Well-Being’, ‘Creative Arts for Early Childhood’ and ‘Child Development’.
“It defies logic why they have been allowed out to do this course. They’ll never be allowed to work with kids,” said a source.
Under legislation it is necessary for all staff, students and volunteers who have access to children to have references and be Garda vetted. It’s not the first time local residents have been shocked to learn about inmates being allowed on the streets of Castlerea without any warning.
In 2013 the Sunday World revealed how long-serving prisoners were due to live in a house outside the prison walls. Although the plan was initially denied by authorities, the scheme has since gone ahead.
The move was criticised at the time by local Councillor Paschal Fitzmaurice.
“There is a lot of suspicion the way things came out. They denied your story when it first came out,” he told the Sunday World.
Harristown House, previously used as a counselling centre, has been refurbished and is being used by its new residents. The two-storey building is surrounded by low railings and residents could easily walk the half mile into town.
Prisoners are regularly allowed out to attend courses while serving sentences for crimes as serious as murder.
‘Black Widow’ Catherine Nevin has been out to attend a night course in south County Dublin. She took part in an addiction counselling course and has since been given temporary release for other courses.
Last year, the Sunday World revealed how sadistic pimp and killer John Cullen was back on the streets of Dublin. He terrorised women who he forced into prostitution and burned three women to death in an arson attack.
Last year, after 31 years behind bars, he was allowed out to attend courses twice a week at the PACE workshop in Santry. He declined the opportunity to say in court if he felt any remorse.
Another killer enjoying time out of jail for classes was Dominic Burke, who has spent most of his adult life behind bars. The Cork native was last year training as a chef at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Cathal Brugha Street.
In 1984 he beat a farmer to death in Cork during a botched robbery. The Sunday World revealed last year that Burke was out again despite previously going on the run in 1997 when given temporary release.
During that time he got involved in another violent robbery and was given a seven-year sentence.
He told our reporter: “I have been warned about people like you by the Prison Service, I have nothing to say.”