THE new Justice minister has confirmed that an internal investigation is continuing at Limerick Prison after allegations emerged from a whistleblower of fraud, theft and tax evasion.
Minister Charlie Flanagan said that he would be reviewing the entirety of the file disclosed by a whistleblower and that he was aware that the internal probe had been launched at the Mulgrave Street facility.
Minister Flanagan, who was appointed by the new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week, said that he was anxious to ensure there will be due process in the matter.
Speaking at the University of Limerick this week, Fine Gael Senator Kieran O’Donnell said that he was concerned over the allegations made.
“I would welcome the fact that this has gone before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), being a former member. It’s a matter that has to be taken very seriously,” the former junior minister and TD.
Fianna Fáil deputy Willie O’Dea said the allegations “strike right at the heart of the justice system”.
“There has to be an all-systems-go inquiry. The Department of Justice will have to get to the bottom of this, because the last thing we want is to have the prison service undermined,” Mr O’Dea said.
Under the previous cabinet, a dossier of information outlining the allegations had been sent to the Frances Fitzgerald when she was the Minister for Justice and to the Public Accounts Committee.
Limerick Prison employs 194 staff and a number of individuals are named in the document.
Earlier this month, the The Irish Prison Service confirmed it received the allegations and that an investigation was ongoing.
It is also understood that the €10,000 in bail bond money that went missing from the prison accounts office at the end of 2015 remains unaccounted for.
The cash, which was held at the General Office at the Mulgrave Street Prison, was “unaccounted for” when a two-day search failed to recover it.
Subsequently an investigation was launched but it remains unaccounted for.
Previously, a spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said it is normal practice for cash to be held at the General Office of the prison as bail money, anything from €500 up to €60,000, is paid in to prisons to secure the release of remand prisoners.
However, the Limerick Post learned at the time that the area where the cash is held is not be accessible to inmates, even those on enhanced regimes or with duties that would allow them movement through other areas of the prison.
It is understood that the money had been lodged to secure the release of two inmates in August 2015.
At the time, a source close to the prison said that the incident caused “consternation”.
“Everyone was in a flap thinking that the money was just misplaced and would turn up but when it didn’t, it became a different story”.