Written Answers. - Detention Centres.

Seán Crowe


284 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the large amount of opposition among local people towards the construction of a proposed juvenile detention centre at Newlands Villa, Naas Road and to the fact that this proposal will use up 13 hectares of green belt, set aside for that purpose under the council development plan, 1998; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that two other prisons are already situated in much the same area, at Cloverhill and Wheatfield; his views on whether it would not be a less expensive option to refurbish and improve Shanganagh Castle and reopen it as a place of detention; and if he or representatives of his Department will be willing to meet members of the local community on this issue. [2970/03]

The Irish Prison Service placed public advertisements in October 2001 seeking suitable sites for the location of a juvenile detention facility for young offenders aged 16 to 17 years, as part of the process of implementing the Children Act 2001. The Act provides that boys and girls aged 16 to 17 years who are committed to custody by the courts either on remand or under sentence should be accommodated in separate detention facilities.

On foot of these advertisements, submissions regarding 25 properties were received by the Prison Service. In addition, another 15 or so sites in state ownership, including all existing prison properties, were considered giving a total of approximately 40 locations assessed with detailed feasibility studies completed by the Office of Public Works.

The Office of Public Works recommended that the site referred to by the Deputy was the most suitable location of those examined and, on that basis, a planning notice under part 9 of the Local Government Planning and Development Act 2000 was served in December 2002. This involved placing public advertisements as well as site notices regarding the proposed development. The comments received on foot of these advertisements are now being evaluated in consultation with the Office of Public Works.
The Deputy will be aware that it has been clearly and consistently stated in the past week, in both Houses of the Oireachtas, that I have not yet made a conclusive decision on the location of the proposed development. The proposal is one which does not come from me but rather one which has been put to me. I require more time to examine all the options open to me and hope to come to a decision on this matter shortly. In that regard I have asked the Prison Service to review all possible alternatives. The Deputy can be assured that I will take into account all views expressed to me by local residents, South Dublin County Council, local representatives and through the Houses of the Oireachtas before reaching a decision in the matter.
While I am examining all of the options open to me in this matter, at this stage my information is that Shanganagh Castle would not be suitable for conversion to the type of secure juvenile detention facility which is proposed.