Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Prison Service

9:50 am

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for his question. I appreciate his ongoing commitment to issues at Portlaoise prison and the work he continues to do. The Deputy will be aware that the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of aid to the civil power, ATCP, which, in practice, means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. At the direction of the Government, the Defence Forces continues to provide 24-7 security at Portlaoise prison. The total cost associated with Defence Forces personnel performing ATCP roles at Portlaoise prison for 2023 was approximately €1.9 million. The total cost includes the costs of escorting prisoners to medical appointments and court hearings outside the prison.

The publication of the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces included a recommendation "That an immediate focus be given to standing down a number of current Defence Forces’ ATCP taskings, which no longer seem justified in the current security situation". Following this, I instructed my Department to formally engage with the Department of Justice to seek a new Government decision on the withdrawal of the Defence Forces from Portlaoise prison. In addition, I agreed with the advice of my officials and the military authorities that a phased reduction of Defence Forces personnel from Portlaoise prison should commence in line with the current threat levels from the remaining prisoner cohort falling under the aforementioned Government decisions. I can confirm that, following consultation with the Department of Justice, a reduced level of deployment is now in place commensurate with the assessed threat levels.

As the Minister for Justice has primary responsibility for assessing the security status of prisons and any review falling from same, I am not in a position to comment further in relation to such matters. It would also not be appropriate for me to comment on the number and classification of prisoners within the prison due to the nature of security and operational matters.


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