Whistleblower lifts the lid on Limerick Prison as €132k spend on TVs is revealed

Prison Service confirms allegations are being investigated

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Whistleblower lifts the lid on Limerick Prison as €132k spend on TVs is revealed

OVER €130,000 has been spent on providing 780 TVs in Limerick Prison over the past five years, new figures obtained by the Limerick Leader show.

The high level of spending on TVs at the Mulgrave Street jail – for 250 prisoners between both male and female wings - has been highlighted in a dossier of complaints containing allegations of theft and fraud at the prison.

It has been sent to the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Department of Public Expenditure, a number of other Government departments and deputies to highlight certain employees alleged to have “defrauded the State”.

The Irish Prison Service confirmed to the Limerick Leader that it has “received allegations of improper conduct at Limerick Prison”, which are under investigation.

Examples of alleged tax evasion and employees drinking in a public house during work hours have also been highlighted by an unnamed whistleblower.

“This whole country has seen what the gardai put Garda Maurice McCabe through when he stood up and bravely told the truth about what was happening in the guards, and the horrible treatment he has had to deal with since,” he wrote.

He said that due to the smear campaign against Garda McCabe he is not prepared to put his “wife or family in any position where they – and I – can be targeted by anybody in the Irish Prison Service.”

“We are sick and tired of what is happening in Limerick Prison and we beg you for help,” he wrote.

The whistleblower alleges that some staff within Limerick Prison are “committing theft, fraud and tax evasion on a daily basis, yet nothing is done to them.”

Among the other allegations concern employees using prison vans for their own personal use outside of work hours, while using the prison fuel card.

The whistleblower also details that some staff members in Limerick are “untouchables” within the system, who “come and go as they please to matches in Thomond Park, or the Gaelic Grounds while they are still getting paid to be in work and nothing is being said to them.”

Chairman of the PAC, Fianna Fail deputy Sean Fleming said they have received correspondence on the case, which they forwarded to the Prison Service.

Deputy Fleming said they are awaiting a response from the Prison Service and will determine their position then.

He said they are “very concerned” by the variety of allegations outlined in a five-page report, which was printed on Irish Prison Service paper.

Among the spending allegations raised was the amount spent on television sets.

In response to queries, the Irish Prison Service confirmed that a total of €132,677 was spent on televisions between 2012 and 2016, with 780 TVs purchased in that period for Limerick Prison.

The highest number of TVs were purchased in 2013, with 298 televisions varying in size from 16 inches to 40 inches purchased for a total cost of €48,250.44.

In all, 325 22’’ TVs were purchased, 436 at 16’’, nine 32’’ TVs, nine 40’’ TVs, and one 50’’ TV between 2012 and 2016.

Televisions are provided in all prisoners' cells, and a spokesperson outlined that as part of the prisoner gratuity policy, a charge of 15 cent is levied on all prisoners to cover the cost of providing the in-cell television service.

This charge is deduced from an ‘incentivised regimes policy’ which provides for a differentiation of privileges between prisoners according to their level of engagement with services and quality of behaviour.

There are three levels of privilege - basic, standard and enhanced – for a daily gratuity ranging from €0.95 to €2.20.

TVs of 16” and 22” are provided in the cells, with Saorview channels available.

“The larger sized televisions would be used in areas like the control room for monitoring purposes and recreational areas where the smaller screens would be insufficient,” said the spokesperson.

There are currently 194 staff assigned to Limerick Prison, which has a bed capacity of 210 for males, and 28 for female prisoners.

Both facilities in Limerick were operating at 100% capacity or over, based on the most recent figures for this week. To alleviate over-crowding, a percentage of prisoners are routinely on temporary release or on remand from the prison.

The Prison Service would not confirm whether there has been any update in another investigation for an alleged breach of the Irish Prison Service's Social Media Policy at Limerick Prison, saying they do not comment on individual investigations.