Prison Service drops action against whistleblower

Prison Service drops action against whistleblower
David McDonald, prison officer pictureds in Abbeyleix Co Laois. Picture Dylan Vaughan

Disciplinary action being taken against a whistleblower in the prison service was dropped on the day that the Irish Examiner reported on it.

Assistant chief officer David McDonald was facing action for allegedly breaking five codes of discipline in connection with allowing a junior officer to leave work early to attend a family matter.

Mr McDonald is the prison officer who last year revealed that illegal surveillance had been conducted in the Prison Service, which prompted the minister for justice to order a report on the matter. The report, compiled by the Inspector of Prisons and published in July, upheld most of the prison officer’s allegations. He made a further disclosure last June about allegations related to fraudulent timekeeping in which some employees were signed in for hours not worked.

In late July, he was served with notice of the disciplinary action for allowing the junior officer leave work early on one occasion, and failing to report her for arriving in work minutes late on two other occasions. He claimed the disciplinary action was entirely out of proportion for the actions he took, which he says were based on routine compassion for a colleague in a difficult situation. He claimed the junior officer was being dragged into what was an attempt to target him for making the disclosure.

On Monday, September 2, the day the Irish Examiner report appeared, Mr McDonald was contacted and told that on review it had been decided not to proceed with the disciplinary action. It is unknown whether the case against the junior officer has also been dropped as she is currently on sick leave from the service.

Mr McDonald is understood to be relieved at the decision, but perplexed as to why he was subjected to the disciplinary action in the first place. He had reported to the protected disclosures manager in IPS on what he regarded as a form of “whistleblower reprisal”.

According to the IPS, such a report results in an independent investigation, but Mr McDonald was not notified of any investigation.

In response to queries about the dropping of the disciplinary charges, a spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said they do not comment on individual cases.

Last year, in an entirely separate case, the Workplace Relations Commission awarded a prison officer €30,000 for harassment he was subjected to after making a protected disclosure in 2015.

The Irish Prison Service has a policy of welcoming disclosures from employees under a programme called Speak Up. 

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