Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (9)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

9 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for the construction of a new prison in a greenfield site close to Dublin to replace Mountjoy; if a location chosen for the new prison will be accessible, especially in terms of public transport, for families of prisoners; the plans he has for the Mountjoy complex; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6217/04]

View answer

Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

An advertisement was placed in the national newspapers seeking a suitable replacement site for the Mountjoy complex within 25 km of Dublin city centre, convenient to and accessible from the main public transport and road networks and also available for immediate development, subject to the relevant planning requirements.

The closing date for expressions of interest was Monday of this week. I have received 23 proposals, the examination and rating of which is now underway. I expect to make a determination on the proposals by the end of next month.

As I have already indicated, it is my intention to close the Mountjoy complex as soon as a suitable replacement prison has been built and to use the capital generated by the sale of the complex for the acquisition of a site and towards the building of the new prison.

I note that Deputy Deasy has said that some aspects of the campus might be preserved. Some preliminary work has been done on the valuation of the site and I have seen proposals for the maintenance of some of the more significant architectural features. However, we do not need a second Kilmainham or a second prison museum in Mountjoy.

Is the Minister considering demolishing Mountjoy prison and is it his intention to leave the women's prison, which is a very new facility, intact?

The answer to the Deputy's second question is, no. I will have to close the women's prison and rebuild because it is inadequate at the moment. With regard to demolition, I will sell the site and it will be up to a purchaser to make a decision as to what will be done with it.

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism has been in Mountjoy prison but I am sure there are members of the Cabinet who have not. Before a decision is made on this matter the Cabinet should visit the prison. Mountjoy prison has been part of the State's history since 1850 and is a national monument. The Cabinet needs to go to Mountjoy and to make a collective decision after its visit. If someone suggested knocking down a piece of Kilmainham Jail in the interest of financial expediency, people would be very angry. This decision needs to be carefully thought out.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.