Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Questions (222)

Clare Daly

Question:

222. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the Office of Public Works advised his Department against the purchase of the Thornton Hall site on the basis that the site was unsuitable for the construction of a prison prior to the sale going ahead in 2005. [51556/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

In February 2004, the Government gave approval for the then Minister for Justice and Equality to replace the facilities at the Mountjoy Prison complex with a new prison facility on a greenfield site. This development was to address the lack of capacity in the prison system and substantial operational challenges in the Mountjoy complex. On 11 February 2004 advertisements looking for suitable sites were published. In May 2004, a site selection committee was established to review potential sites. This selection committee, which included an OPW nominee, recommended the purchase of the site at Thornton Hall. The minutes of the committee's deliberations were subsequently published on my Department's website.

There is already extensive background information in the public domain on the Thornton Hall purchase - how it arose, the related prison accommodation issues and other relevant factors. In particular, the Deputy may recall the Comptroller & Auditor General Annual Report 2005 which addressed this issue as well as the subsequent examination by the Public Accounts Committee in October 2006. The Comptroller & Auditor General also addressed this issue as part of the Report on the Accounts of the Public Services in 2014 (No. 9 Development of Prison Accommodation in Dublin) and the Public Accounts Committee subsequently examined this issue in November 2015.

It is worth recalling, in summary, that due to the downturn in the economy, the scale of the project could not be accommodated within the capital allocation available. In light of the decision not to proceed with Thornton Hall, significant capital investment has been made at the Mountjoy campus over recent years.