Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has announced that the death of anyone in the custody of the Irish Prison Service will be independently investigated by the Inspector of Prisons.

As part of his investigation Judge Michael Reilly will consult, as appropriate, with members of the family of the deceased.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has described the move as highly significant but called for it to be put on a legislative basis.

The Department of Justice says that 49 people have died in custody in the country since 2007.