I would refer the Deputy to my reply to the matters raised on the Adjournment on 12 and 19 November 2003 regarding measures to contain prison costs, including possible new management arrangements for Loughan House which would not involve the Irish Prison Service.
On 11 November 2003, the Government decided to implement, from 1 January 2004, a number of measures in the event of failure to reach agreement with the Prison Officers' Association in ongoing talks on the proposed change agenda aimed at eliminating overtime payments and reducing prison costs. Those measures include transformation of the open centre at Loughan House into a post-release centre for the reintegration into society of prisoners on conditional temporary release. The precise arrangements for the running of such a facility are being finalised in my Department. As I have already indicated, serving staff will be transferred to other prisons to perform duties which must currently be done on overtime. Similar arrangements will be implemented regarding the other open centre at Shelton Abbey, Arklow, County Wicklow.
I have already made it clear on several occasions, both inside and outside this House, that I want the Prison Officers' Association to agree to a reasonable and sustainable cost structure for the continued involvement of prison officers in operating our prisons and open centres. However, if consensus is not possible, I will have no option but to proceed with implementation of the measures decided by Government, including alternative arrangements for the operation of Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.