"But officer, how have we ended up in an outdated 'Carry On' film?"
The Taoiseach has slammed the "unacceptable" actions of an officer who told a female solicitor to remove her bra when visiting a client in prison.
The female solicitor wrote a complaint to the Irish Prison Service, as reported in the Irish Examiner, stating that she was "subject to a degrading incident" when attending Cloverhill prison, Dublin.
The solicitor described a visit to the prison to see her client, in June last year. When she went through the security search monitors, an alarm went off. She complied with the initial instruction to remove her shoes, earrings, watch and jacket.
But the monitor sounded again, as she went through a second time. The solicitor alleged that a male prison officer asked: "are you wearing any underwear?" She was then told she would have to remove her bra in the bathroom, if she wanted to access the prison.
The solicitor said there was "no option other than to comply" with the order, as her visit was urgent as it concerned bail proceedings.
"I felt extremely embarrassed and very exploited," she said in her complaint and "was absolutely horrified by what was happening."
"Not only did I feel extremely vulnerable and targeted as a woman I felt humiliated that my dignity had been so casually torn from me," the solicitor said in her statement. She added that she was "close to crying because of how powerless they made me feel". She tried to cover herself with her jacket for the remainder of the visit.
The female solicitor said she later found out that a male colleague had previously attended the same client, but when the alarm sounded three times when he went past the monitor, "at no stage was any such request made of him and he was admitted entry."
Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the opposition, raised the issue in the the Dáil (parliament), to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin. He responded that it was “shocking and unacceptable” and confirmed he would ask the Minister for Justice for a report as to what transpired and the prison's policy and practices.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice confirmed to RollOnFriday that a report had been sought. The spokesman added that the minister responsible for the Irish Prison Service was "firmly of the view that no person should ever be asked to remove items of clothing when visiting our prisons".
A statement by the Irish Prison Service said that "all visitors to the prison, both male and female, are expected to be treated with the highest degree of respect, integrity and courtesy at all times."
The Irish Prison Service confirmed that it was not its policy "to request any person to remove under garments in order to gain admittance to a prison" and that "allegations or claims of inappropriate behaviour by our staff are taken very seriously and are fully investigated."