A 50-year-old former civil servant has been sentenced to two years in jail with the final year suspended for passing confidential information about individuals to private detectives for payment.

Rory Lenihan, of Ballaghderg, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court to 12 sample charges of corruption out of a total of 41 offences, which occurred between 2008 and 2010 when he worked as a clerical officer at what is now the Department of Social Protection in Letterkenny.

Detective Garda Peter Cullen, who investigated the case over a number of years, told the court that Lenihan passed the information to two private detectives, John Buckley on the Navan Road in Dublin and Brian Foy in Leixlip, Co Kildare.

They in turn passed some of it on to financial institutions.

The information was being used for a number of different reasons, including chasing debts and locating people, he said, but neither private detective has been prosecuted in connection with the case.

Sentencing Lenihan, Judge John Aylmer said that there had been a significant breach of trust in this case and a significant breach of the privacy of all citizens whose information is held by the State.

He described Lenihan's crimes as being on the mid-range of such offences.

Judge Aylmer said the offending took place over a protracted period of time and Lenihan's sole motivating factor was financial gain.

He added that in relation to the sample charges, there were approximately 20 transactions for which he received about €23 per transaction. Taking all the charges into account, the total sum involved was €21,898.

In mitigation, the judge said he took into account the facts that Lenihan was deeply remorseful, he had lost his job and suffered loss of reputation, employability and suffered disgrace and adverse publicity.

His marriage has since broken down as a result of the effect of these offences, the judge said.

At the time of the offences Lenihan was under financial strain, but he came before the court with good references as to his personal character.

Having regard to the gravity of the offences and the period of time over which they took place, Judge Aylmer said this is a case in which there must be a custodial sentence.

He sentenced Lenihan to two years in jail on each count, to run concurrently, with the final 12 months suspended.