332. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide information in respect of prison visiting committees (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30614/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): A Visiting Committee is appointed by the Minister for Justice and Equality to each prison under the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act, 1925 and Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order, 1925. There are currently 12 Visiting Committees - one for each institution.
The function of Visiting Committees is to visit the prison to which they are appointed at frequent intervals and to hear any complaints which may be made to them by any prisoner. The Committees report to me any abuses observed or found by them in the prison and any other matters which they think may need be addressed. The Visiting Committee members have free access either collectively or individually to every part of their prison.
Details of visits, announced and unannounced, along with the arrangements generally made by Committees are contained in the Prison Visiting Committee Annual Reports. These Annual Reports up to and including 2017 are available on my Department's website - www.justice.ie. The 2018 annual reports are being collated at present with the intention of publishing them before the end of this year.
This question asks for the number and the dates of visits by members of the visiting committee to each of the prisons for the period 1 January to 8 July 2019. These statistics are not readily available. My officials will liaise with the Visiting Committees to gather and collate the details requested by the Deputy, but with the completion of the 2018 Annual Reports being the priority. The 2019 figures requested will be transmitted to the Deputy when my officials have them available.