Prison officer still waits for contact in ‘urgent’ inquiry

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The prison officer who made allegations of malpractice in the prison service has still not been contacted despite an “urgent” inquiry being set up by the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan two weeks ago.

The prison officer in question can be identified today as David McDonald, an assistant chief officer with the Operational Support Group unit in the Irish Prison Service.

The Irish Examiner understands that he contacted the inspector of prisons’ office the day after Mr Flanagan announced the inquiry. He left his details and a message that he was available to assist in any way. He has not been contacted since.

Mr McDonald has sworn an affidavit in which he alleges that a range of unorthodox and possibly illegal surveillance was carried out within the prison service, including the placing of a tracker devise on a prison officer’s private vehicle, and listening in on conversations between prisoners and their solicitors.

He has also made a number of allegations about malpractice in the handling of deaths in prisons.

On November 22, following the publication of the story about the allegations in the Irish Examiner, Mr Flanagan announced he had asked the inspector of prisons, Patricia Gilheaney, to carry out “an urgent preliminary investigation into the allegations to determine as far as possible the facts”.

The act under which the inquiry was ordered confers power on the inspector to demand access to documents that are held in prisons but does not extend to documents held by the prison service outside detention facilities.

A spokesperson for the inspector’s office said she was not in a position to comment on the preliminary investigation.

Mr McDonald is one of three senior prison officers who are in dispute with the IPS. He and another officer were transferred without any notice out of the Operational Support Unit in August.

They challenged the transfer and after a judicial review hearing, Mr McDonald’s transfer was quashed.

The second officer’s case is ongoing, and the third is also in legal proceedings with the IPS.

All three are understood to be claiming that actions against them were entirely unwarranted and by their nature are suggestive that they have transgressed in some manner, which all say is completely untrue.

Meanwhile, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee is to hold a meeting on December 18 into the allegation made by a separate prison officer whistleblower, Noel McGree.

Mr McGree gave evidence to the PAC last month and the committee is expected to call in the head of the Irish Prison Service and a high ranking Department of Justice official.

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