The Irish Prison Service has advertised a contract for the electronic tagging of prisoners.

The notice, posted on the Government's e-tender website, says the service being sought is electronic monitoring using satellite tracking of prisoners on temporary release here.

A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said the contract would allow for a maximum of 50 low-risk prisoners to be tagged and monitored while on temporary release.

However, he added that it was anticipated that only a handful of prisoners would be tagged at any one time.

The spokesman denied that the development was the consequence of budget cuts.

He said the aim of the service was primarily to allow remote monitoring of low-risk prisoners, who are in hospital or being released temporarily into the community.

Currently, when a prisoner is hospitalised, they are continuously guarded by two prison officers on a 24-hour basis.

He said the service would only be used with low-risk prisoners, on a case-by-case basis.

The Irish Prison Service is currently awaiting a decision from the Justice Minister on the future of electronic tagging of prisoners.

A pilot electronic tagging and monitoring project was carried out using 31 prisoners in 2010.

Following the pilot, the prison service undertook a review of its viability and a cost-benefit analysis.

This review is currently being considered in the context of the prison service's draft Strategic Plan 2012 - 2014, which is due to be submitted to the minister shortly.

Since the completion of the pilot, seven prisoners have been tagged due to ill health, or where it was agreed on medical advice that their health care needs were better catered for in the community.

The issue of electronic tagging will also be considered by a group, established by the Minister for Justice, which will carry out a complete strategic review of penal policy.

Among the prisoners currently tagged is convicted serial killer and rapist Geoffrey Evans, who is currently in a coma in the Mater Hospital.

Until he was tagged, it was costing the Prison Service €900,000 a year to have him guarded in hospital.

This was because each day a total of six guards were involved in guarding him - two on each of three shifts across the 24 hours.