Irish nun to receive O'Flaherty award for prison work


AN IRISH nun, Sr Agnes Hunt, who was the first woman to be appointed chaplain in a male prison in England 34 years ago, will be presented with an international humanitarian award tonight.

The event is due to be attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny along with the papal nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown and British ambassador Dominick Chilcott.

The award is named after Msgr Hugh O’Flaherty from Co Kerry, who came to be known as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican. He is credited with saving more than 6,000 Jews and others by setting up an escape network during the German occupation of Rome in the 1940s, and was played by Gregory Peck in the 1983 film The Scarlet and the Black.

The fifth annual Hugh O’Flaherty weekend began in the monsignor’s native Killarney yesterday with an exhibition of memorabilia at the town library.

Last night the participants heard personal reflections from the monsignor’s nephew, the former Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Hugh O’Flaherty.

Sr Agnes, who spent 16 years at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, was nominated by the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas and was chosen due to her commitment and empathy towards Irish prisoners overseas and their families.

Joanne Joyce, co-ordinator of the prisoners’ body, stated in her nomination submission: “Thirty-four years after her first day in Wormwood Scrubs, Sr Agnes remains committed to supporting prisoners. Every week she comes into our Maynooth office to write to prisoners serving life sentences in the UK, many of whom she has known since her time at Wormwood Scrubs.

“For many of them the letter they receive from Sr Agnes each week will be the only contact they have with the outside world.”