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Statement by the Minister for Justice and Equality regarding Surveillance in Prisons

‘I am aware of allegations made in today’s Irish Examiner concerning surveillance in prisons. The details of the allegations have been made by way of an affidavit in court proceedings concerning a proposed temporary transfer of a prison officer by the Irish Prison Service.

While I am constrained in what I can say about proceedings before the courts, and nothing I say should be taken as a comment on these particular proceedings, these allegations raise serious issues which need to be addressed. I have therefore asked the independent Inspector of Prisons, Patricia Gilheaney, to carry out an urgent preliminary investigation into the allegations to determine as far as possible the facts. I have also requested a meeting today with the Acting Director of the Irish Prison Service, Don Culliton.

This investigation will be a statutory investigation under section 31 of the Prisons Act 2007. There is a statutory obligation on prison governors and all prison staff to cooperate with the Inspector, and there is also provision in the section for the report to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Surveillance can be necessary to prevent illegal trafficking of substances into prisons, but this must of course be carried out in accordance with the law. It must be stressed that these are allegations, and we must in the first instance determine if they are factual. This preliminary investigation will put us in a better position to consider whether further steps need to be taken, such as a more formal inquiry, as has been called for.’