Two reports on Dóchas Women’s Prison conducted by the Inspector of Prisons are being kept under wraps by the Department of Justice.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said a third report on the Dóchas Centre, along with related inspections on three other institutions, will be published shortly.
The minister also confirmed that the before her sudden resignation, the then Inspector of Prisons, Patricia Gilheaney, wrote to her to outline problems she faced in carrying out her duties.
Ms McEntee said she will be talking to the new inspector about these issues and with the Prison Service itself.
The remarks came in response to parliamentary questions (PQ) asked by Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy and Fianna Fáil deputy Éamon Ó Cuív.
Thereported last February that Ms Gilheaney had told the minister that she was leaving before her contract expired because of what she said were constant attempts to thwart her work.
This included her examination — ordered by Minister McEntee — of alleged bullying and intimidation inside Dóchas.
That inquiry was ordered after the inspector brought to the minister’s attention in August 2020 issues at the centre. The report was supposed to have been completed by December 2020.
In her PQ replies, Minister McEntee confirmed that there were three reports submitted to her by the Inspector of Prisons that had not yet been published.
She said the first, a “three-day monitoring report” of the Dóchas Centre was received by her office in August 2020, some 20 months ago.
She said the second report related to the inquiry she ordered under section 31(2) of the Prisons Act.
Minister McEntee said it was always her intention to consider both of these reports together.
“The Inspector submitted the section 31(2) investigation report to me on the 15 February 2022 and it is currently being examined by my officials,” she said.
“Based on legal advice received by my Department, it is not proposed to publish this report at this time.”
The third report is a Covid-19 inspection on Dóchas, like ones carried out in jails. She said eight of those were published in 2021 and that the remaining four, including the one on Dóchas, “will be published shortly”.
She also confirmed that Ms Gilheaney had written to her in February “to formally tender her resignation and to outline challenges she faced in carrying out her duties during her tenure”.
Ms McEntee said: “I intend to engage further with the new Inspector upon appointment on these matters, and with the Prison Service itself, in the context of ongoing work to develop the independent prisons oversight and inspection function.”