The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, T.D., has warmly congratulated Ms. Patricia Gilheaney on her appointment as Inspector of Prisons effective from 7 May 2018.


Ms. Gilheaney is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Commission, a post she has held since 2010. From 2003 to 2010, she was the first Director of Standards and Quality Assurance in the Commission. Ms. Gilheaney holds an MSc in Health Services Management and an MSc in Executive Leadership. She is a registered general nurse and a registered psychiatric nurse.


Minister Flanagan said: “To have succeeded in a Public Appointments Service (PAS) competition featuring a very high standard of candidate is a testament to Ms. Gilheaney’s undoubted ability. I look forward to Ms. Gilheaney bringing her unique experience and skills to her new role as Inspector of Prisons and continuing the excellent work of her predecessor, the late Judge Michael Reilly. The Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Michael Donnellan, joins me in welcoming Ms. Gilheaney to the post. He and I look forward to cooperating with her in our joint aim of continuing to improve standards in the Irish prison system to the benefit of prisoners and staff alike.”


The Minister took the opportunity to thank Ms. Helen Casey, Principal Officer in the Inspector of Prison’s office who, since Judge Reilly’s untimely death on 26 November 2016, has continued to carry out the role of Inspector under a Ministerial warrant.


The Office of the Inspector is a statutory independent body provided for in the Prisons Act, 2007.  The Inspector is charged with carrying out regular inspections of prisons. She may enter any prison unannounced and obtain any document she requires for her investigation. As well as providing an annual report to the Minister, the Inspector may produce ‘themed reports’ on relevant aspects of the prison service. The Inspector also provides reports on the deaths of prisoners.  See website:




Note for editors


The Prisons Act, 2007, while setting out the functions and terms of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons, does not specify any qualification criteria for the post.


Ms. Gilheaney will be only the third Inspector of Prisons.


The first was Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen, who was appointed on a non-statutory basis for a period of five years with effect from April, 2002. Judge Kinlen was re-appointed to the post, but died in 2007.


The second Inspector was Judge Michael Reilly who was first appointed to the post on 1 January 2008 under the 2007 Act.  His first five-year term expired on 31 December 2012. He was re-appointed and was due to serve until 1 January 2018.  Judge Reilly died suddenly on 26 November 2016. As indicated, Ms. Helen Casey, Principal Officer in the Inspector of Prison’s office, continued to carry out the role of Inspector in the meantime under a Ministerial warrant.