THE TUCK shop in Mountjoy Prison is a million euro business.
The shop counts some of the country's most feared criminals among its best customers.
The shop operates a monopoly on the trade of cigarettes, newspapers, sweets and crisps for the 540-strong prison population and new figures show it seems immune to the recession.
The shop's finances, which would be the envy of retailers across the country, show that last year profits increased by 17pc from €106,375 to €124,682.
This followed revenues at the shop dipping by 7pc from €1.315m to €1.225m in the 12 months to the end of last December. The overcrowding at Mountjoy during the period would have contributed to the million euro-plus revenues.
A Prison Service spokesman said yesterday that a tuck shop provides "a vital role in the operation of a prison providing inmates with the only means to obtain goods such as toiletries, cigarettes, tea bags, biscuits and other items".
Prisoners at Mountjoy and across the prison system receive weekly gratuities ranging from €6.65 to €15.40. They can also receive money from relatives to spend at the shop.
The Prison Service said that no money exchanges hands between the prison officer manning the hatch at the tuck shop at Mountjoy and prisoners, with all transactions completed on account. He said: "It couldn't be done any other way."
The spokesman said that tuck shop privileges are valued by prisoners and can be withdrawn if there is a breach of discipline.
In his a written Dail reply, Justice Minister Alan Shatter confirmed that profits generated "are used to support prisoners through the Prisoner Assist Programme Fund".
He said gross profits are transferred to the Prisoner Assist Programme Fund to facilitate hardship payments to prisoners.
"In addition, initiatives such as the Red Cross Programme and the Community Return Programme are also part-funded."