There are currently 166 prisoners from 14 different crime gangs jailed across Irish prisons.
That is according to new figures provided by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD who revealed that there are 71 prisoners associated with known criminal gangs currently serving a sentence - 43% of the total numbers jailed - who are due for release in the next three years.
A sizeable proportion of the gang members behind bars are from the Kinahan crime gang and the 166 crime gang prisoners include a nine-man Kinahan cartel hit team that has been jailed for a total of 80 years for a bid to murder Patsy Hutch.
Last Summer, Assistant Garda Commissioner, John O’Driscoll stated after the jailing of Kinahan crime gang members, that Gardaí will not cease until the Kinahan crime gang has been dismantled.
In her written response to Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan, Minister McEntee said: “The emergence in recent years of criminal groupings has had significant implications for the management of Irish prisons.
“Prison management must ensure that the various factions are kept apart, and as far as possible, that members of criminal groups do not have influence over other inmates in the prisons or criminal activities outside."
Minister McEntee stated that the 166 prisoners from 14 criminal groupings exclude the subversive groupings in Portlaoise Prison and that the situation at Portlaoise “is subject to continuous monitoring and assessment”.
Minister McEntee stated that “membership or allegiance of these criminal groups fluctuates on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated on a daily basis”.
Minister McEntee added: “It is also the case that prisoners will not always declare their affiliation to certain groupings and it is therefore not possible to provide definitive numbers in relation to the number of known members of criminal groupings currently in custody.
In a further complication concerning the figures, Minister MeEntee stated “that more than one criminal gang may group together under the umbrella of a particular group and in some instances some gangs may form splinter groups due to family or in house disputes”.
Minister McEntee stated that “the Irish Prison Service is committed to preventing identified members of criminal groups from conducting criminal activities while in custody and also to prevent them exerting inappropriate influence over other persons”.
She said: "For example, certain security initiatives have made it more difficult for prisoners to engage in illegal activities while in prison."
Minister McEntee said that these initiatives include the installation of airport style security including scanners and x-ray machines, as well as the gathering and collating of intelligence information on members of criminal groups in custody, carrying out intelligence led searches and preventing the flow of contraband, including mobile phones, into prisons.
The Minister also said: “In addition, there is regular contact between the Irish Prison Service and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues including the operation of criminal groupings.”