Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (76)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

73 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for the future of the Fort Mitchell and the Curragh Prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6216/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The Deputy will be aware that on 11 November 2003, the Government approved a series of measures, to be taken on a rolling basis with effect from 1 January 2004, in the event of failure to reach agreement with the Prison Officers' Association on a change agenda aimed at eliminating overtime payments and reducing other costs in the Irish Prison Service. These measures included the mothballing of the Curragh Place of Detention and Fort Mitchel Place of Detention.

The reasons for the Government decision have been well aired in the House and indeed in the Seanad. I would refer the Deputy to the Adjournment debates in this House on 12, 18 and 27 November 2003 and to an Adjournment debate in the Seanad on 19 November 2003. In the course of those debates, I made it clear that the Irish Prison Service could not continue to spend public money to feed an overtime culture which was virtually out of control, while maintaining outdated and inefficient work practices. I also made it clear that I had no desire to close or mothball prisons and that my preference was for a mutually advantageous agreement with the Prison Officers' Association which would ensure an efficient and cost effective Prison Service into the future. My position has not changed in that regard.

In the absence of agreement with the Prison Officers' Association, the Curragh Place of Detention closed on 20 January 2004 and Fort Mitchel closed on 10 February 2004. I have no plans at present to reopen either of the two facilities.