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Saturday 17 March 2018

Whistleblower 'begs for help' in dossier on 'daily fraud' at prison

Limerick Prison
Limerick Prison

Robin Schiller

An investigation is under way into allegations of theft, fraud and tax evasion at Limerick Prison, the Irish Prison Service has confirmed, after a whistleblower's dossier was sent to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The Irish Prison Service said it has "received allegations of improper conduct at Limerick Prison", which are now under investigation.

The high level of spending on TVs at the Mulgrave Street jail is among a litany of allegations at the prison. It confirmed more than €130,000 has been spent on providing 870 TVs over the past five years, for 250 prisoners.

The dossier has been sent to Ms Fitzgerald, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Department of Public Expenditure, and a number of other Government departments to highlight certain employees alleged to have "defrauded the State".

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

His correspondence 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".

Other allegations concern employees using prison vans for their own personal use outside of work hours, while using the prison fuel card, and employees drinking in a public house during work hours.

"This whole country has seen what gardaí 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 chairman of the PAC, Fianna Fáil deputy Seán Fleming, said it has received correspondence on the case, which it forwarded to the Prison Service.

Mr Fleming said it is awaiting a response and will determine its position then. He said the PAC is "very concerned" by the variety of allegations outlined in a five-page submission to it, which was printed on Irish Prison Service headed-paper.

In response to queries from the 'Limerick Leader', the Irish Prison Service confirmed a total of €132,677 was spent on televisions between 2012 and 2016, with 870 TVs purchased in that period for Limerick Prison.

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

In all, over the course of five years, 325 22ins TVs were purchased, 436 at 16ins, nine 32ins TVs, nine 40ins TVs, and one 50ins TV.

A spokesperson for the prison service said the volume of purchases is higher in prisons than in other facilities within the public sector, such as hospitals, due to damage caused by inmates.

Televisions are provided in all prisoners' cells, and under the prisoner gratuity policy, a daily charge of 15c is levied on all prisoners to cover the cost of providing the in-cell television service. TVs of 16ins and 22ins are provided in the cells, with Saorview channels available.

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

The Prison Service would not confirm whether there has been any update in another investigation of an alleged breach of social media policy by employees at Limerick Prison, saying it does not comment on individual investigations.

Irish Independent

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