Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - St. Patrick's (Dublin) Workshop Accommodation.

33.

asked the Minister for Justice if steps will be taken to provide suitable workshop accommodation for Saint Patrick's, Dublin, so that effective training can be provided in adequate accommodation for the young persons detained there; and, if so, when.

Proposals for the provision of additional workshop accommodation in Saint Patrick's are at an advanced stage of preparation and I expect to be in a position to reach a decision on the matter shortly.

Could the Minister give us any further details in regard to these proposals? Is it proposed to acquire an additional area of land adjacent to the institution in order to provide accommodation for the additional workshops required?

There are a number of proposals. There is one to reduce further the area of the women's prison. This, apart from providing 46 additional cells for St. Patrick's would provide an additional non-basement workshop and two additional areas, inside and outside the buildings for recreation. There is also a proposal to erect within the reduced area cell accommodation for a small number of female prisoners. This accommodation would be temporary pending the erection of a new female prison for which we are expecting a site to be available within two or three years. The third proposal is to extend the area of the prison by enclosing the vacant ground adjoining Mountjoy Garda Station and to erect workshops on the added area. It is proposed also to reduce the upper age limit of youths who may be sent to St. Patrick's from 21 to 19. This would require legislation which I am having drafted to legalise the Shanganagh Institution.

While not underestimating the problem involved in this, may I express the hope that waiting for three years until the new women's prison is erected will not be the course ultimately determined for providing these additional workshops. The present situation is deplorable. May I suggest to the Minister that he should consider transferring women prisoners to an open prison which might be purchased fairly readily on the open market and taking over that area forthwith not only for the purpose of providing additional cell accommodation but of giving space to provide workshops over which he and the rest of the House could conscientiously stand, which is not the position in regard to the present accommodation?

If the Deputy reads what I have said he will see there are a number of overall proposals, and I do not propose to wait to try to do something about this until we get the new women's prison.

The Minister agrees with me that the matter is one of great urgency?

I appreciate that.