Adjournment Debate.

Hospital Services.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this important issue on the Adjournment tonight and the Minister for coming in to answer, I hope, positively.

Several people have contacted me recently regarding the fact that they must travel for dialysis to Dublin's Beaumont Hospital, which is already overcrowded and working 24-hour shifts to keep up with demand. One patient from Monaghan had to travel 180 miles three days per week, and he is well over 80. That is totally unnecessary. Another patient living just a few miles from Cavan General Hospital had to leave home at 2.30 a.m. three days per week for dialysis at 5 a.m., arriving home some time after midday. This is costing €600 or €700 in taxis. However, I welcome the fact that the patient in question is now back in Cavan as a result of some unfortunate deaths as well as transplants.

I ask that the necessary funds be provided for Cavan General Hospital to ensure that an extra shift can be put in place to save people from having to make that unnecessary journey three days per week. There was a tremendous effort to have the renal dialysis ward set up in Cavan, and it provides a great service, dealing with 45 patients. We seek an extra shift, which is absolutely logical. I have a letter here from one lady who wrote directly to the Minister concerned. She said that the extra shift in Cavan General Hospital would help with the desperate problem of overcrowding in Beaumont as well as the unnecessary travelling by people in need of dialysis from the Cavan-Monaghan area. She had to travel 170 miles to and from Dublin three days a week, something that is very hard on one, physically as well as medically, and I am sure it is worse for older people — the lady in question is just 49. Older people, several in their 80s and with other serious or related illnesses, find it impossible to understand why they must make that journey.

If the money spent on travelling expenses were put to better use by supplying the extra shift in Cavan, it would make a huge difference to that person and all other patients travelling from the Cavan-Monaghan area. The patient went on to say that, as far as she could see, the problem was the result of bad management of resources in the health board area. At one stage, we were told that we would get a new consultant in Cavan and that that was the reason for the delay. Is the consultant position all that important? The hospital has excellent trained nursing staff. In the three months that the lady was on dialysis, she never once saw a consultant in Dublin.

I have a letter from the person in charge of another case in Cavan, who said that the consultant will be appointed in March and that the hospital may re-examine the situation then. However, the issue is urgent. There is a failure to use resources properly. The Cavan unit is brilliant and everyone is very happy with it. I cannot emphasise enough the excellent service that it has given to those patients from Cavan-Monaghan who have been able to use it. It is hard to explain to someone why a unit in Beaumont can work 24 hours per day, with the person having to travel during the night to use it, when a unit is available in Cavan. It is a matter of rostering the necessary personnel and easing the load on Beaumont, the travelling expenses and the unnecessary pressure on patients and families that the journey imposes.

On behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, I wish to respond to the Deputy's concerns regarding dialysis services at Cavan General Hospital. The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Responsibility for the provision of dialysis services at Cavan General Hospital rests with the executive.

My Department has been advised by the Health Service Executive, north-eastern area, that the current position on the dialysis unit at Cavan General Hospital is as follows. A locum consultant has been in place at the unit since July 2002. The executive has further advised me that a consultant physician with a special interest in nephrology will take up duty at the unit in early March 2005. It is anticipated that this development will provide an opportunity for the executive, in conjunction with the new consultant, to review all aspects of the service being provided, including the number of patients being treated.

My Department is advised that the current complement of the unit is 47 patients. It is the intention of the executive to examine the following issues relating to the dialysis unit upon the arrival of the new consultant: the feasibility of providing haemodialysis services to an increased number of patients; the provision of an enhanced service on an outpatient basis; and consideration of making available continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis to patients in the north-eastern area. All the above would require additional clinical input in the areas of dietetics, psychological services and counselling, and social work supports to patients and families.

The executive further advises that it liaises very closely with renal units in the Dublin hospitals to minimise inconvenience as much as possible for patients who have to travel for treatment from the north-eastern region. Renal services have been identified by my Department as one of the main acute hospital priorities for development.

The requirement for renal dialysis services is growing at a high rate. The net increase in new dialysis patients is between 10% and 15% per annum, and it is likely to continue increasing at that rate for the foreseeable future. The number of patients on dialysis increased from 641 to 1,106 between 1998 and June 2004, an increase of 72.5% in six years. There are many reasons for that large increase, including greater levels of obesity, a greater number of diabetics, especially where diagnosed at a late stage, and increased longevity in the population.

My Department has provided additional revenue funding of over €28 million since 2000 to develop renal services in Ireland. An additional €8 million was provided in the 2005 Estimates. Total additional funding of €2 million has been provided for the development of renal services in the north-eastern area since 2000, of which €475,000 was allocated for the current year. That significant investment has supported the development of renal services on a regional basis, with the approval of seven additional consultant posts specialising in nephrology, including the new post at Cavan General Hospital.

I assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to support the provision of dialysis services in a way that takes account of the needs and preferences of patients, and of the communities in which they live. The configuration of those services is a very important aspect of the role of the new Health Service Executive.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter, which is also health related. The population of south Tipperary is entitled to the highest quality health services, just like patients in any other county. However, a number of issues that have been on the Minister's desk for some time need to be addressed urgently and referred to the Health Service Executive for completion. I refer to two problems in particular — overcrowding in the accident and emergency department at South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel and the transfer of general surgical services from Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel to the South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel.

As we are all aware, there is serious pressure on accident and emergency services throughout the country. On a recent visit to South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel, I found overcrowding in the accident and emergency department, which had spilled over into the main hospital. There were 35 additional patients on trolleys, a situation which was neither helpful to patients nor staff. Everybody was frustrated and angry at the situation, and they had every right to be. I spoke to patients who were unable to sleep because they were lying on hard trolleys. They were thankful to be in the hospital but not satisfied with the facilities and services available. I spoke with staff who were frustrated at not being able to give the level of service they believed they should be able to give.

This situation was compounded by the fact that an area within the hospital earmarked for a future acute medical unit is three quarters complete. It is an area under the roof of the hospital and a request to complete the unit and open it as an acute medical unit has been with the Department for more than two years. That would help to a large extent the overcrowding problem in the hospital. It would also tie in to the policies recently announced by the Tánaiste regarding the accident and emergency area.

The second problem that arises in the county is the transfer of general surgical services from Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel. That is promised for March of this year but cannot go ahead without the approval for the completion of units in the grounds of the hospital. Those units have been completed for approximately 12 months and are waiting approval for equipping and staffing. Approval is also awaited for the 20-bed GP assessment unit for the main hospital. These units must be opened and staffed properly to allow the transfer of the general surgical services to Clonmel and give the people of south Tipperary the level and quality of services to which they are entitled.

Approval for the 20-bed GP unit at Cashel and the 23-bed acute medical unit at Clonmel would go a long way to redressing the effect of the unfortunate and wrong closure of St. Vincent's Hospital in the late 1980s when 50 beds were closed at the hospital. The health services in south Tipperary have been bedevilled by the impact of that closure ever since. The health board at the time was not able to replace those beds and that has led to overcrowding in the accident and emergency unit, in the wards and on hospital corridors. Approval for the GP assessment unit and the acute medical unit would go a long way towards solving that problem and the problem of overcrowding in accident and emergency units.

The idea of a GP unit at Our Lady's Hospital in Cashel, together with other diagnostic services proposed for the hospital, including X-ray, physiotherapy and laboratory services, is an ideal way of providing health services. It dovetails with proposals the Tánaiste earmarked recently in regard to accident and emergency overcrowding which will allow services to be provided, particularly at a diagnostic and inpatient level, on a different site and ensure that the same pressure is not placed on the main hospital, South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel. I hope the Minister of State has some good news for me.

I thank Deputy Healy for raising this matter on the Adjournment. Agreement was reached in 1996 to amalgamate acute services in south Tipperary requiring the transfer of surgical and accident and emergency services from Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel to South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel. This agreement provided for the development of older people, disability, palliative care and mental health services on the Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel site. It is planned to complete the developments in Cashel in two phases. Phase I has now been completed. This comprises three units: a 20 bed unit for elderly mentally infirm; a 12 place supervised community residence, day hospital and day centre, sector headquarters for mental health services; and 12 independent living units and day care centre for people with physical disabilities.

The planning stage of phase II of the Cashel development has been completed. Refurbishment of the main hospital building is required to accommodate the following services: a 20 bed GP assessment-rehabilitation unit; five bed palliative care units; a 15 bed convalescent unit; 25 bed specialist geriatric rehab units; a day hospital for older people, and an outpatients' department. The development of phase Il is contingent on the transfer of surgical services to Clonmel and the provision of capital funding for the project.

In recent years a major capital development programme to provide the infrastructure to facilitate the transfer from Cashel to Clonmel has been undertaken to bring surgical and acute medical services together on a single site. The integration of acute services on one site will greatly enhance the services available to patients in the region.

In recent years, significant capital investment of €30 million has been provided for the new facilities at South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel. The newly constructed facilities in Clonmel include the provision of a new emergency medicine department, ward accommodation, operating theatres, intensive care unit, day care unit, central sterile supplies department, physical medicine department, education centre and consulting rooms.

In September 2004, the Department of Health and Children, in the context of commissioning new units in acute hospitals throughout the country, gave approval to the South Eastern Health Board to commission the new facilities in Clonmel. In 2005, ongoing revenue funding of €3.8 million is available to the HSE-South Eastern Area to open the new facilities at South Tipperary General Hospital.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel and South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel.

In order to progress the developments and resolve the issues, including staffing issues arising at Cashel and Clonmel, the HSE South Eastern Area, formerly the South Eastern Health Board, has carried out an analysis of five options to resolve outstanding difficulties. These options will be the subject of discussions at an early date between the Department and the HSE, in the context of the HSE's service plan for 2005.

Job Losses.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me raise this issue. I wish to share one minute of my time with Deputy Cregan, my colleague from west Limerick, to give him an opportunity to tell us what his party, Fianna Fáil, intends to do to overcome the difficulties in west Limerick. I presume the Minister of State is taking the matter. In view of the fact that the Minister for Agriculture and Food was in the House a short time ago, it is disappointing that she is not here to take it.

I use this opportunity to raise the serious loss of jobs in the Kantoher area of west Limerick, in the very west of the constituency. A total of 140 jobs have been lost directly, at least 30 in the transport area and 20 more in services. Almost 200 jobs have been taken out of a deprived area. Having examined the figures, outside the towns of Abbeyfeale and Newcastlewest there has been a drop in population in the area over that time. The Kerry Group has a responsibility in this area regarding the people of the area and their staff. A decision has been made, however, and we must expect and demand that the Kerry Group honour the long-term commitment of the people of the area to Kantoher Chickens.

Kantoher Co-op has been in operation since 1904 and has been producing broiler chickens for over 40 years. Prior to that it was involved in the poultry breeding area. In the 1950s, it was the largest co-op in the country. Its closure will have a devastating effect on the area. There is an onus on the Government and, in particular, Fianna Fáil to take action. The people of west Limerick delivered two seats to the latter party in the most recent general election, thereby doubling its representation in the area. The Government has a responsibility to ensure that these jobs are replaced and that a task force is established immediately to see that this is achieved.

There is a good cold storage facility in Kantoher but even if this is found to be unsuitable, at least 140 jobs must be created in the area. It is reasonable to expect that this is done because it has been done elsewhere. We heard about the successes enjoyed by task forces in places such as Galway, Clonmel and elsewhere when the leader of the Minister of State's party served as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. At a time when people are boasting, and perhaps rightly so, about job creation, we are asking the Government to ensure that the 140 jobs that will be lost at Kantoher will be replaced in double quick time with the involvement of IDA Ireland, Shannon Development, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment etc.

The people of the area in question need these jobs. It is one of the most deprived areas in the county and we look forward to a positive response from the Minister of State. I look forward to hearing Deputy Cregan's comments. I am sure he has considered this matter during the past week and that he has communicated with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in respect of it.

I thank Deputy Neville for sharing time. Like Deputy Neville, I share in the sadness experienced by people in west Limerick in recent days as a result of the loss of 140 jobs in the Kerry Group at Kantoher Chickens. I am concerned for the 40 growers who depend on Kantoher and for those who provide indirect services.

I call on the Kerry Group to provide west Limerick and the people of Kantoher with a goodwill gesture. Kantoher Chickens was founded on a co-operative basis 101 years ago. I call on the Kerry Group to return the buildings and the infrastructure to the community. I have spoken to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in recent days and I know he, with the various State agencies and Shannon Development, will ensure that a task force will be put in place to deliver new jobs to west Limerick, particularly Kantoher. I hope we will be able to use the current infrastructure to help create such jobs. This would be to the long-term benefit of west Limerick.

I encourage everybody concerned to ensure that these jobs are created for the sake of the workforce, the growers and everyone involved with Kantoher. Every household in the parish of Kileedy has been involved with the company during its many years in operation and they deserve the gesture to which I refer from the Kerry Group.

I thank Deputies Neville and Cregan for raising this matter on the Adjournment.

The Kerry Group acquired Kantoher Chickens in 1992. The company operated successfully up to five years ago when it began to sustain losses. These losses have grown in the interim and, despite the best efforts of the excellent local workforce, the company was unable to reverse this trend due to its size and the very competitive nature of the chicken processing sector. I understand the Kerry Group tried unsuccessfully to sell the operation as a going concern. As a result, it has decided to close its chicken processing plant in Kileedy, Newcastle West, County Limerick, on 4 March 2005 with the loss of 138 jobs.

The reason for the closure is the very competitive nature of the market and that there is over-capacity in the chicken processing sector. The trend in this sector, as with other sectors in the agri-food industry, is for consolidation into larger processing units of scale. The company view is that the plant is small by industry standards and it was not willing to contemplate further investment.

The Kerry Group has indicated that it plans to offer the employees an opportunity to take up alternative positions in either its food ingredient operations in Charleville on the Limerick-Cork border, where a major expansion is taking place, or Listowel, County Kerry, where demand for workers is also increasing. An out-placement consultant has been put on site in Kileedy to assist those employees who are not interested in this offer of alternative employment. A redundancy package is being negotiated for members of the workforce who do not wish to transfer. The employees at Kantoher Chickens are drawn from a wide geographic area in west Limerick and the offer of redeployment by the Kerry Group to the other plants in Charleville and Listowel will allow Kantoher based employees to continue to live in the area, preserve their incomes and commute to work in an activity they know well, if they so wish.

The Kantoher plant accounts for about 8% of chickens slaughtered in this country. I understand that the poultry producers who supplied this operator will now be taken on by Western Brand Poultry. This is good news because poultry growing makes a useful contribution to the income of farmers in the Limerick area and I am glad that this activity can continue. Western Brand Chickens, which is located in County Mayo, is one of Kantoher's bigger competitors and, fortunately, will take on the supply contracts of the 40 local farmers that supply Kantoher.

I understand from the Department of Agriculture and Food that there is excess capacity in the poultry slaughter sector which is hampering the competitiveness of the indigenous poultry industry. The agri-food 2010 committee established by the Minister for Agriculture and Food recommended a reduction in capacity in the order of 20%. This is a very competitive sector due, in particular, to the increased volumes of poultry meat being imported from low-cost countries outside the EU. Nevertheless the volumes of poultry produced in this country have remained at satisfactory levels and an increase of 4.5% was experienced last year.

West Limerick in general is well serviced with industry, with major companies such as Wyeth, Aughinish Alumina, Kostal, Ballygowan and Pallas Foods being the major employers in the vicinity of Kantoher. However, the closure of the plant is, of course, a significant setback to a predominantly very rural area and the chances of getting a replacement industry into a disused chicken plant would not be too good. To achieve this would require the decommissioning of the plant and the fumigation of the building. It would also need to be made available as a vacant unit. If that were to happen, there would be a possibility of attracting industrial activity to the building.

As in all such cases, Shannon Development is ready and willing to explore and consider eligible business proposals for the Kantoher area, whether from employees taking the redundancy option or other parties. It is also an active member of local groups such as West Limerick Resources Limited, a local Leader-ADM group which met last week to discuss this issue. West Limerick Resources Limited will shortly write to the Kerry Group to offer its services with local initiatives such as a jobs club, training and start your own business courses. Similarly, Shannon Development is actively involved with the Newcastle West Chamber of Commerce and will work closely with it to ensure that its resources are brought to bear in regenerating the Kantoher-Kileedy area.

When these efforts are combined with the arrangements the Kerry Group is putting in place for both employees and suppliers, it is intended that the effects of the closure on the community will be minimised. I trust there will be a satisfactory outcome to the proceedings for all concerned.

Prisons Building Programme.

I intend no reflection on the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, but I would have liked to see the Minister, Deputy McDowell, present. I do not believe the latter has graced the floor of the House on many occasions since entering office to answer matters raised on the Adjournment. This could have been his first opportunity to explain why he has just spent €30 million on a greenfield site in north County Dublin and why he is closing the prison where over €30 million was spent on the women's section not so long ago; €12 million was spent on the juvenile prison, St. Patrick's Institution, only two years ago; and where there is a fine training unit in operation. It would also be an opportunity for the Minister to explain to the local population in north Dublin why he arrived like some thief in the night without any consultation and bought the land, behind their backs. Any decent Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should not be afraid to come forward to justify his actions. However, the Minister is hiding behind his PR gurus, who will issue statements on his behalf. We saw the other day just how much is being spent on branding the Minister in public relations. We need a straightforward explanation and the Minister is not prepared to give it on the floor of the House. He has no respect for the House, as such.

There is no doubt the Minister and all of us are appalled at the conditions in Mountjoy. However, these conditions have existed for decades. The Minister has decided to do something about it because he had no choice. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has condemned conditions in Mountjoy. The Government's Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention, Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen, has on two occasions called for the closure of Mountjoy in two annual reports, as well as Cork and Limerick jails. The second report has been with the Minister for many months without it being published because of some legal conundrum he was supposed to have resolved long ago and also because a solicitor in Limerick has approximately 800 prisoners and ex-prisoners as clients who are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights over disgraceful conditions as regards slopping out in prisons.

Has the Minister made the right decision in his response? I do not believe he has. In the first instance one has to think about the families of the offenders. The offenders are being punished and their families should not be. There are no public transport facilities anywhere near the new site that has been purchased.

A new women's prison has been constructed which is working excellently and is a model in that respect. It is within the Mountjoy complex and the training unit is there. At the same time the Minister has closed three other prisons which were operating satisfactorily, Shanganagh Castle, the Curragh and Spike Island. He closed them for the most meaningless of reasons, because he was engaged in an industrial relations row about overtime with prison officers. Instead of engaging in proper industrial relations, he went off in a huff and closed the prisons, saying in effect, "You have no prisons now, so you are going to have to come to heel". This is no way for a Minister to behave. The capacity for approximately 300 prisoners is ready and waiting. There is no reason why St. Patrick's Institution for juveniles could not be transferred and the entirety of it refurbished. There is no reason why the adult wing in Mountjoy could not be transferred for extra capacity when St. Patrick's is finished. Again, it could be adequately completed as should have been done many years ago, but the Minister decided differently. He decided on a greenfield site in a public private partnership.

We have no penal policy. We have no indication of alternatives to prison. We have seen the previous Minister increase prison capacity from 2,000 to 3,000. We have seen this Minister increase it to 3,200 and now he proposes to increase it to 4,500. At the same time he claims that crime is going down all the time. There is something wrong, some contradiction and I would be delighted to hear a satisfactory answer to that conundrum.

I am deputising for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, who unfortunately cannot be here this evening.

He could not be here the other evening either.

He has been here and to suggest that he is afraid to come into the House is somewhat frivolous. I am glad to have the opportunity to reply to Deputy Costello on behalf of the Minister to outline the reasons for replacing Mountjoy Prison with a prison complex in north County Dublin. The Minister has made it clear that he has for some time been planning a move for the Mountjoy site to a new site in County Dublin. The largely antiquated buildings on the existing site, which is approximately 20 acres in total and surrounded by high density housing, and the difficulty of carrying out extensive renovations with the prisoner population in situ, pose insuperable difficulties for maintaining the existing location. The current Mountjoy site is too small to allow any significant improvement in facilities for prisoners. Another substantive difficulty is that the current facilities are poor by modern penal standards. A new prison complex will deliver significant improvements in conditions for both prisoners and staff.

The Minister has personally inspected the conditions in Mountjoy Prison and come to the clear view that it falls so far short of the requirements of a modern prison and the needs of prisoners and staff, that replacement of the prison complex, rather than refurbishment of the existing facilities, is the only realistic option. The Minister's view is shared and advocated by reports on Mountjoy from both the prison board and the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention, and by strong and consistent criticism of the existing facilities by a committee of the Council of Europe and other organisations concerned with the welfare of prisoners. The Minister has directed the Director General of the Prison Service to make an immediate start on planning for the new prison facility.

The total refurbishment of the Mountjoy complex on its present site would last longer, be more disruptive to the prison system and ultimately be far more costly and less satisfactory than the construction of a new complex. The running costs of a refurbished Mountjoy would also be much higher than those of a completely new prison complex.

A number of serious issues arise in any refurbishment of a live prison as old as Mountjoy. There is no in-cell sanitation in Mountjoy and, for operational reasons, it is not a viable option to install same. The result is slopping out. There are also numerous structural difficulties such as cell doors and doorways which are significantly smaller than other prisons and cell windows which are small and do not provide sufficient light or ventilation. Walkways are narrow and in poor condition and there are insufficient bridges between them. The heating system is also in a fragile condition, the wings are dark with insufficient natural light in cells and common areas. Central services, that is, water, sewerage, and power, were designed for a Victorian building and must be replaced to modern standards to meet legal requirements. We need a civilised modern prison with adequate facilities — medical, recreational, training and rehabilitative.

The benefits which will result from moving to a green field site greatly outweigh the case for refurbishment of Mountjoy Prison. It is currently estimated that the cost of renovating a single wing at Mountjoy Prison would be between €25 million and €30 million. The provision of a new modern building with the full range of emerging prison technologies, including modern facilities, will greatly improve conditions both for staff and offenders and will result in significant savings in operational costs. Outdoor recreation and yard space will be enhanced, as will visiting facilities including family friendly facilities such as a crèche and playground. Special transport links will be provided for visitors to the new prison.

St. Patrick's Institution and the Dóchas Centre are no longer adequate. St. Patrick's is unsuitable for young offenders and the recently constructed Dóchas Centre is already completely inadequate in terms of size. The training unit at Mountjoy is also obsolescent even though it is relatively new.

The cost of the new site has been questioned by some Deputies. The position is that early last year a public advertisement was placed in the national newspapers inviting landowners to put forward suitable sites for sale in the greater Dublin area. The average asking price of land owners who responded to that advertisement was above €200,000 per acre, with some owners seeking as much as €500,000 per acre. More than 30 sites were examined by an expert committee comprising representatives of the Office of Public Works, the Irish Prison Service and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. However, only five sites were deemed to be suitable for consideration as a site for the new facility. The purchase price of the site finally selected, which worked out at €199,333 per acre, was lower than the asking price for the other suitable sites.

That is over 20 times the normal price.

It is worth recording that two thirds of the cost price is being met from the sale of lands at Shanganagh Castle. There is no truth in the suggestion that the sale of Shanganagh is prevented by a restrictive covenant. The OPW, which was involved in this process and deals daily in land and property management on behalf of the State, has advised that the price paid could not be regarded as exorbitant. Indeed, it probably represents a long-term investment for the taxpayer.

To sum up, the reasons for replacing Mountjoy Prison have been made clear on numerous occasions. The condition of the main buildings are such that they are not suitable for refurbishment. The only viable option is to replace Mountjoy Prison completely. This is not possible while approximately 900 prisoners are housed on the entire complex, representing just under 30% of the entire Irish prison system. There is simply nowhere to keep them while reconstruction work is under way. In the Minister's view, the arguments in favour of the replacement of the Mountjoy complex with a new prison on a greenfield site are persuasive.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 February 2005.