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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 May 1989

Vol. 390 No. 5

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Wheatfield (Dublin) Prison.


asked the Minister for Justice the category or categories of prisoner who will be included in the first group of 16 prisoners to be transferred to Wheatfield Prison, Dublin 22; the period of time over which the total of 160 prisoners will be transferred to the prison; if he has made special provision for prisoners with HIV or the AIDS virus there; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for Justice if he will make a statement regarding the projected opening of Wheatfield Prison, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 23 together.

The first group of 16 offenders will be in the younger age group and selected from the existing institutions in Dublin. They will be transferred to the new place of detention on 13 June next. Further groups of offenders will be transferred over the following months in the light of operational experience at the institution and demands on the prison system generally.

Regulations for the centre under the Criminal Justice Act, 1970, will provide that male offenders aged 16 years or over may be transferred there.

No decision has been taken regarding the transfer to Wheatfield of offenders infected with the HIV virus. I accept, however, that they are one of the categories of offenders whose situation will call for particular consideration when the reallocation of available accommodation, consequent on the bringing into use of Wheatfield, is being decided.

Will the Minister specify how many months it will take for the transfer of the projected number of prisoners to Wheatfield? He said it will happen over a number of months, but only 16 prisoners are being transferred initially. We were told that Wheatfield would relieve congestion in the prisons but we are now told that only 16 prisoners will be transferred initially. When will the rest go? If they are removed from St. Patrick's Institution, does that mean consideration will be given to moving other prisoners into St. Patrick's? In relation to HIV or AIDS prisoners, is consideration being given to moving them to Wheatfield?

These are generally operational matters for the Prison Service. The question of the speed at which transfers will take place depends on the experience of the first transfers. No decision has been taken regarding the transfer to Wheatfield of offenders infected with the HIV virus. The Minister has noted what the Deputy said in that regard.

With respect, I do not believe it is simply an operational matter that cannot be divulged to the House as to when the prison is expected to fulfil the role which has been carved out for it over the last number of years. It would surely be normal to say it would happen over the next three, six or nine months and that it was expected to move 160 prisoners in groups of 16. The public want to know how soon the drastic and dreadful conditions in our prisons will be relieved by the use of this prison, which cost £38 million to build.

The prison will open on 13 June and the transfer will begin at that stage. Over a period of time obviously further prisoners will be transferred but that is an operational matter for the service.

Are we talking about years?

Hardly, Deputy.

The Minister could give an indication.

Given that the groups of 16 are to be young offenders aged, I presume, between 16 and 21 years, will the Minister confirm that they will be picked because of the trouble they caused to the institutions in which they are currently serving their sentences as it appears that Wheatfield is suitable because of its security arrangements? Will the Minister give the criteria by which the 16 offenders will be chosen? Could he also advise the House as to the conditions, particularly rehabilitative conditions, training programmes and so on, that will be available to those young people in a high security and totally inappropriate institution for people of that age?

The facilities in the new prison will be of the very highest order in every respect. Once the transfer begins it will continue over the following months.

It is clear that the reason the Minister is moving in young offenders is to put a good complexion on the eventual use of the prison, which is wholly inappropriate for people of that age.

The Deputy is making a statement instead of putting a question.

Does the Minister agree?

It is accepted that St. Patrick's, an old institution, has a lot of problems and is in need of modernisation.

We should open Shanganagh to take the prisoners.

The facilities in the new prison will be of a very high standard.