I am very glad of the opportunity to raise this matter. In view of the fact that it is proposed by the Government that Castle Bernard in County Offaly is to become a detention centre I wish to ask the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry what proposals he has for the continued training of young foresters and if he will clarify the specific details involved in the proposed arrangement between his Department and the Department of Justice.
I have raised this matter to highlight the unacceptable manner in which the Minister for Justice and his Department have collaborated with the Department of Fisheries and Forestry in closing down an established school for young foresters and the disastrous proposal to use the premises as a detention centre for young offenders. We are casting no aspersions on the magnificent work of people involved in the prison service who work in detention centres. Our major argument is that this is not a suitable location.
Mr. David Stewart, the head of planning in An Foras Forbartha, has spoken about the suitability of Castle Bernard as a location for a national folk museum in the event of its not being used as a training school for foresters. The place has been inspected during the past week and has been short-listed as being suitable for this purpose. The previous Minister for Fisheries and Forestry, Deputy Brendan Daly, opened a log cabin in the vicinity of Castle Bernard and we were hopeful at that time that it would be developed into a major amenity area such as a forest park. Castle Bernard is a national monument and there is a second national monument in the grounds.
The Department of Fisheries and Forestry have built a workshop in Mountrath for the maintenance and repair of machinery and it seems to be a retrograde step to close down at the same time the educational facility in Kinnitty Castle for the training of young foresters. It is a major irony that the Civil Service, which has run the forestry industry very inefficiently through their tender system and certainly not on a commercial basis, should have the gall to propose the closure of this school and put in its stead a detention centre. They are thereby torpedoing any prospect of an improvement in the forestry industry. Young people who are interested in that industry should be in a position to avail of training so that they can take their places in a rejuvenated industry.
It seemed to a recent deputation that the matter was afait accompli. The Minister for Justice was saying that he wanted the place and it was to be subject to a final Government decision. The Office of Public Works have now inspected the building.
It is not very honest of the Government to proceed in that manner without taking into account the stiff and growing opposition of the whole area which is running against the long and dedicated service of many people in voluntary organisations there. It is incumbent on the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry to restore Kinnity Castle as an educational facility for the training of young foresters so that they can work in harmony with the development of the surrounding area which is a major amenity and environmental centre. It is one part of the midlands which can be developed properly as a tourist attraction and he should act responsibly to alter this disastrous decision. He should return Castle Bernard to its proper place.