38. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on reports that prison officers have been put under surveillance; the details the investigation he has ordered into same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49793/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The details of the allegations which were published last week in the Irish Examiner are contained in an affidavit to Court by a prison officer in relation to a personnel issue. The House will understand that I am constrained in what I can say about these proceedings before the courts. That said, these allegations raise serious issues which need to be addressed.
I have asked the Inspector of Prisons to carry out an urgent preliminary investigation into the allegations to determine as far as possible the facts. This investigation will be a statutory investigation under section 31 of the Prisons Act 2007. This report, when finalised, will allow me to consider whether further steps need to be taken, such as a more formal inquiry.
It should be noted that section 31 (7) of the 2007 Act provides that Governors, other prison officers and other persons employed in prisons shall, as far as reasonably practicable, comply with any request for information that the Inspector may make in the performance of her functions, which include the function of carrying out an investigation under subsection (2). In addition, the acting Director General of the Prison Service has made clear that the Prison Service will co-operate fully with an investigation by the Inspector of Prisons. The Inspector of Prisons will therefore have full access to relevant documentation and personnel in Prison Service Headquarters or elsewhere in the Prison Service in her investigation.
An Garda Síochána are also examining the allegations and I understand they will coordinate, if needed, with the Inspector in relation to her investigation.