Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Justice Department seeks powers better handled independently in new prison service bill

Irish Prison Service Bill: Independent TD Warns Against Justice Department Power Grab

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said the Irish Prison Service Bill would see the Minister for Justice take on responsibilities that should be handled by an independent body.

Deputy Pringle said: “In all parts of the bill the Department of Justice seems to be retaining hold of the legislation, and I think that’s a big problem.

“I think it’s not surprising, really, in terms of how the Department of Justice does its job and sees its role, I believe, and I think that’s going to be a fatal flaw in the legislation. Because this is going to be presented as though reform is done and dusted now for the next 20 or 30 years.

“However, I believe it’s not real reform, because the minister is retaining ownership of some of the very significant and very important parts of the legislation that would really, I think, be better handled by a statutory body, a new independent body,” he said.

Deputy Pringle raised his concerns at a Justice Committee meeting on Tuesday, during pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the Irish Prison Service Bill.

The deputy raised a number of examples from the heads of the bill.

For example, he said, head 34, which addresses accountability of the Director General for accounts of the service, “is very restrictive in terms of what the Director General can actually do.

“And you see in Part 4, which relates to the Board of the Irish Prison Service, the board is appointed by the Minister for Justice, not an independent body. Again, that’s another problem.

“Then in head 52, which relates to the duties of the Director General to inform and assist the Minister, the Minister for Justice has the authority to redact these reports.

“The Department of Justice is retaining ownership of all the important parts of this legislation, and I think that’s a real problem,” Deputy Pringle said.