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Jail board that cost us €26k every time it met

A PRISON board which met only 10 times in two years cost the taxpayer more than €26,000 every time members sat down together.

In the last two years the cost of running the Irish Prisons Board totalled €261,978 in payments and expenses.

Its chairman Brian McCarthy was paid the equivalent of more than €4,400 for each meeting, while board members pocketed over €2,500 for every time they met.

The Justice Minister last month said there was "no case for keeping the board in existence" and closed it down.

The quango was set up in April 1999 by the then Justice Minister John O'Donoghue who appointed fellow Kerryman McCarthy, the boss of Fexco, the Foreign Exchange Company of Ireland, as its chairman.



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He has remained at the helm of the "interim" board -- which has never been given statutory powers -- since then.

Figures for its costs from 1999 to 2009 are not immediately available but it is conservatively estimated at over ¤1m.

Five of the eight interim board members, initially appointed 12 years ago, remained in office for its entire lifetime -- until new Justice Minister Alan Shatter scrapped it.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS), in response to queries from the Herald, said that the board held 10 meetings over the course of the 2009 and 2010.

Three of these were held in IPS HQ at Longford, three held in Dublin prisons, and two were held in Department of Justice offices in the city centre.

The prison service said, of the 12 members of the board, three were ex-officio members who received no remuneration. "The chairman and the eight members who received remuneration were treated as the board members of a category 2 board according to the circulars from the Department of Finance," a spokesman said.

The IPS said that, in 2009, the chairman was paid €22,392, board members €13,062 and expenses for board members ran to €6,100

In 2010, the chairman received €21,600, board members €12,600 and board member claimed €6,600 expenses.

When it was set up in April 1999, the "interim" board's brief was to "prepare guidelines for the minister on the management, administration and business of the prison service".



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The members who remained in office from 1999 were Mr McCarthy, of Fexco; Michael Whelan, of Guinness Ireland; Kathleen O'Neill, community worker; Jerry Kiersey, haulier; Frank McCarthy, former Cork prison governor, and Tom Hoare, formerly of the Prison Officers' Association.

Scrapping the board, Mr Shatter said that he did not consider it "value for money".

cmallon@herald.ie


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