Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Monday, 14 Dec 2020

Vol. 273 No. 8

Central Mental Hospital (Relocation) Bill 2020: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. Before I call her, I commiserate with her on yesterday's outcome. Being from Kerry, we were all hoping that the underdog would win, but it was not to be. Beidh lá eile.

And next year is only a few weeks away.

Beidh bliain eile againn.

Hopefully, it will not be another 60 or so years.


We have a good, young, strong team.

Please God, they will be back.

Please God, next year.

Congratulations to Limerick on their win.

And to Antrim.

Yes. Unfortunately, Kerry did not have their day either. The Minister of State and I are in mourning together. However, I thank her for attending the House for this important issue.

I thank the House for affording me the time. I am delighted to be here to introduce the Central Mental Hospital (Relocation) Bill 2020 to the House. The Central Mental Hospital operates from a building in Dundrum that dates back to 1850. That building is no longer fit for purpose. Construction of a new hospital is a long-standing Government policy and a priority in the programme for Government. A significant and historic development will occur in 2021 with the opening of the new national forensic mental health campus in Portrane, County Dublin. This campus comprises three psychiatric centres, including a new state-of-the-art central mental hospital to replace the Dundrum hospital. However, legislation is needed to relocate the Central Mental Hospital from Dundrum to Portrane.

For 170 years, the Central Mental Hospital has provided secure care, specialist treatment and rehabilitation for people at high, medium and pre-discharge levels of security. Currently, it is providing inpatient treatment to 94 people. Most of these are detained under various provisions of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, with smaller numbers under the Mental Health Act 2001 as well as a small number of people who are wards of court.

The hospital was built on a parkland site because the Victorians believed that people with mental ill health could benefit from space and nature. That belief was a progressive one and more enlightened than the facility's name, which was a product of its time. Today, the language of that time is inappropriate, outdated, and offensive. Unfortunately, as some of it is written in law, I will need to quote from it at times during this debate.

In that context, I note that the current legal definition of the Central Mental Hospital comes from the Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum (Ireland) Act 1845. That Act provided for what was defined as a criminal lunatic asylum to be built.

It was constructed in Dundrum and later, under the Mental Treatment Act 1961, renamed the Central Mental Hospital. The provisions of those two Acts are what combine to link the hospital to its current location in Dundrum. This Bill is needed to allow the hospital to operate from a new location.

The Bill is short and technical. Its purpose is to provide a lawful basis for the relocation of the Central Mental Hospital from Dundrum, County Dublin, to a new facility at Portrane, County Dublin. It also provides for the transfer of persons detained in Dundrum to Portrane and provides for an ongoing lawful basis for their detention. It provides for the closure of the Dundrum facility and repeal of section 39 of the Mental Treatment Act 1961 which links the Central Mental Hospital to the location in Dundrum.

I will now take the House through the Bill to clarify its provisions. Section 1 deals with definitions. It defines the meanings of some of the terms used for the purposes of the Bill, including "relocation day", "closure day" and "former Central Mental Hospital".

Section 2 sets out procedures for fixing a date by ministerial order for the relocation of the hospital. The date shall be agreed after consultation with the Minister for Justice and the Mental Health Commission. From the relocation day, the new hospital in Portrane shall be known as the Central Mental Hospital. A copy of a map marking the location of the new hospital will be included in the ministerial order, with the original map deposited in the Department of Health. From the relocation day, references to the "Central Mental Hospital" or "Central Mental Hospital Dundrum" in any enactment, court order or other document made before the relocation day will be read as meaning the new hospital.

Section 3 provides that persons who are lawfully detained in Dundrum before the relocation day will continue to be lawfully detained in Dundrum on and after the relocation day, pending their transfer to Portrane. During the transitional period between the relocation day and the closure of the Dundrum facility, persons lawfully detained in Dundrum will be transferred to Portrane and will continue to be lawfully detained during that transfer. The specific provisions under which persons may be lawfully detained in the Central Mental Hospital are included in this section. They are: section 202 of the Defence Act 1954, where a person is unfit to stand trial by court martial; section 203 of the Defence Act 1954, where a person has been found guilty of an offence at a trial by court martial but was, as defined by the legislation, insane at the time of the offence; section 14 of the Mental Health Act 2001, which allows for the involuntary admission of a patient suffering from a mental disorder for his or her reception, detention and treatment; section 15 of the Mental Health Act 2001, which allows for the period of involuntary admission of a patient to be extended; section 21 of the Mental Health Act 2001, which allows for a patient detained in another approved psychiatric centre to be transferred to the Central Mental Hospital either for his or her benefit or for the purpose of obtaining special treatment; section 4 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, which allows the detention of a person who is accused of an offence, is suffering from a mental disorder, is in need of inpatient care or treatment for that disorder, and is not fit to stand trial; section 5 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, which allows the detention of a person who has been held to be not guilty of an offence by reason of insanity, is suffering from a mental disorder and needs inpatient care or treatment for that disorder; and section 15 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, which allows that a person who is detained in a prison and suffering from a mental disorder for which he or she cannot be afforded appropriate care or treatment within the prison can be transferred to the Central Mental Hospital to receive care or treatment for the mental disorder.

Section 4 sets out procedures for fixing a date by ministerial order for the closure of the Dundrum facility as a psychiatric centre. This date will be no later than the relocation day made under section 2. The date shall be agreed after consultation with the Minister for Justice and the Mental Health Commission.

Section 5 confirms that several existing entitlements for people detained under the Mental Health Act 2001 and the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 are unaffected by the changes in the Bill. These are entitlements for persons to have their detention reviewed, to appeal against it, to have their detention revoked where appropriate, or transferred from the Central Mental Hospital.

Section 6 allows approved expenses associated with the administration of the Bill to be paid for from public funds. Section 7 repeals section 39 of the Mental Treatment Act 1961.

That section renamed the building commissioned in Dundrum under the 1845 Act as the Central Mental Hospital. It must be repealed to allow the hospital to operate from its new location. Section 8 is the Bill’s final section, and makes standard provisions setting out the Short Title of the Bill and arrangements for its commencement.

I commend the Bill to the House and ask for Senators' support in passing it in a timely way.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I am pleased to see this Bill before the House. I think I am the only Member present who lives on the peninsula of Donabate and Portrane. As someone who lives locally, I have been following with great interest the development of the St. Ita's Hospital site. We had a new distributor road open earlier in the year, which allowed for the site's further development and will allow traffic in and out of it. There is a lot going on on the peninsula, which is very welcome.

Generations of people living in Donabate and Portrane have had a strong and close connection with St. Ita's Hospital and I hope that will continue with this new national forensic mental health campus, when it eventually opens. Local people and jobs should be emphasised. Many people have been employed in construction at the site and I would like to see that continue when the facility opens fully. Can the Minister of State give us an idea of when the relocation will take place?

On traffic infrastructure on the Donabate-Portrane peninsula, the distributor road opened but we are sorely lacking other public transport links into the peninsula. I refer specifically to the electrification of the northern line and the metro delivery, which are essential for the future running of the site. We are in a strange time, one where the public transport network is not overstretched because many people are working from home. However, when things go back to normal, please God, in a couple of months and this facility is up and running, we will be under severe pressure on the peninsula. I would like the Minister of State to bring that message back to her ministerial colleagues and ask them to deliver on the traffic infrastructure.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. This Bill raises some issues which might be surprising in one respect. The new facility in Portrane is almost finished or will be ready for commissioning very soon. It would be nonsense, therefore, not to provide for the relocation of the Central Mental Hospital to the site. I fully appreciate that point but I will make a couple of points.

This Bill is being introduced to this House now when the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum has effectively been prepared for closure and the arrangements for its reopening in Portrane have been advanced almost to completion. The issue that occurs to me is whether it is a wise strategy that is coming to an end. The Central Mental Hospital was established, as the Minister of State said, in the 19th century. I had the opportunity to visit it when I was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I will come back to that later, if I may. The Central Mental Hospital has a number of functions, including the one in the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 to which the Minister of State referred. I was responsible for seeing that legislation through these Houses. One of the provisions of the Act was that prisoners who were suffering from psychiatric disorders and mental illness could be moved in certain circumstances from prisons to the Central Mental Hospital for inpatient treatment. That is the theory but the fact of it is quite different.

Unfortunately, the Central Mental Hospital is not in a position to deal with the level of psychiatric illness in our prisons. It is by no means in a position to do that, and it is not philosophically oriented towards doing that. The hospital has been under the tutelage of Professor Kennedy for more than 21 years, and the tradition has been one of fairly small contact with the day-to-day psychiatric needs of prisoners. It does operate consultancy services within our prisons, but they are wholly inadequate to deal with the levels of mental illness in our prisons and they have been repeatedly criticised by the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Council of Europe's Committee on the Prevention of Torture.

When I became Minister for justice in 2002, one of the first things I did that summer was to visit Mountjoy Prison, and one of the first things I saw there was a padded cell. I will now describe the cell for those in the House. It was about the size of a horse stall. Its walls and floor had brown rubber mats on them, there was a pink light hanging from around eight feet above, shining down, and there was no daylight in the cell whatsoever. The only supervisory access to it was through a peephole in the door. I asked to see the cell because I was aware of the condemnation of the Irish padded cell situation that existed at the time. When the door was opened, I discovered a prisoner in his underpants with a blanket or towel lying on the floor in the foetal position with a plastic potty beside him, in almost complete darkness. I was so horrified and taken aback by what I saw that day, that I immediately told the Irish Prison Service that the situation had to change and we could stand over it no longer. With the Government's backing, in December of that year, we announced plans to scrap padded cells and replace them with facilities for at-risk prisoners called observation cells, with much more daylight and windows in them.

That was the beginning of my hands-on experience of how prisoners with psychiatric and mental health problems were dealt with in the Irish Prison Service. To say that that was the beginning of a history of involvement is an understatement. As Minister, I had almost constant interaction with the Committee on the Prevention of Torture, the Irish Penal Reform Trust and similar organisations on the problems that arose. I had almost constant involvement with these organisations and with other people - and I hope to come back to this later in the debate on this Bill - right up to the point where a prisoner, Gary Douche, ended up being murdered in a basement collective cell block with 13 other prisoners, in circumstances, again, where a prisoner who was mentally ill, was afforded access to him. I want to set that scene for Members because there are other remarks that I would like to make on this Bill and the approach of the Irish State to the treatment of mentally ill prisoners, and prisoners suffering from psychiatric disorders, which I think needs a radically different approach from that set out in this Bill, as good as the progress reflected in this Bill actually is.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. She is becoming a frequent and regulator visitor, and it is always great to have her here. I see this Bill as a positive development. The facility in Dundrum is clearly not fit for purpose. What we are facilitating through what is a largely technical Bill, but yet a very important statement, is transferring the Central Mental Hospital into the national forensic mental health campus, which one hopes is a centre of excellence, where people will receive the type of supports they need.

For too long, we have heard about the negatives in the health services in this country, although more recently, there has been a more balanced discourse in that regard. This development has been happening quietly in recent years, with the support of all parties, to do the right thing by people who suffer from mental challenges. I fully agree with Senator McDowell that it probably is not big enough and that it probably does not provide enough supports, but it is certainly a great start. It has been going on for a long time. Certainly, quarter 1 of 2021 will be a giant leap forward in how we view people who find themselves in these circumstances, which would be welcomed by everybody.

I listened with great interest to Senator McDowell when he was a Minister in regard to the issue of padded cells. I had not realised that he was the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who ordered that their use should cease and who got the support of the Government at the time. That was significant and it was always going to influence his opinions and how he would move forward in this area. That is good, because personal experience and seeing something like that at first hand would, of course, have an impact on how he would chart his commitment to that going forward.

I served on the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality with Senator Bacik for a number of years. We went to see many facilities, including Mountjoy Prison, Cork Prison and others. This House has highlighted issues in this area and we have seen some incremental success. The mental capacity legislation that was before the Oireachtas between 2011 and 2016, ground-breaking as it was at the time, was intended to do exactly what the Minister of State spoke about, that is, to address the language used. Language is important. The old phrase "sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us" is not true, of course.

As for the language in the various items of legislation, which go back to the 1800s, I do not know whether we can create some omnibus legislation to change the language. Even if we just change the language, it would be appropriate. The Minister of State had no choice but to read those terms into the record of the House because that is the legislative framework she is working from. We should strive to change it. Hopefully, there will now be a period of government for the next three or four years, where matters such as this can be addressed. It could not have been done by the previous Government because there was a question as to how long it would last. All that was ever dealt with was legislation that was deemed a priority, with the exception of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017, but we will not go there. The language needs to be tidied up and it would be appropriate to do so.

What is the intention for the building in Dundrum? What use does the HSE plan to make of the building? I have never visited it but I believe it is a highly valuable site. Are there plans to dispose of it on the open market or will other uses be made of it from a health or justice perspective? Overall, the Bill is a good development. I am a member of the Joint Sub-Committee on Mental Health. A visit to the new forensic mental health campus would be in order, just to see at first hand exactly what is being done and what the plans are for caring for vulnerable people in our society.

Senator McDowell gave an example of a visit to a facility to get an understanding of it when he spoke about his trip to a prison, where he saw a padded cell. I wish the Minister of State the very best in passing this legislation. It is technical in nature but what it will achieve is very important as a statement about our society.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House, where she is always welcome. As Senator Conway said, she is now a very regular visitor. On behalf of the Labour Party group of Senators, I welcome the Bill. We will certainly support it. It is long overdue. As the Minister of State has said, the Central Mental Hospital is no longer fit for purpose and we support this move. We appreciate the urgency involved in the move although it raises the question of the exact timeframe involved. There have been quite a number of slippages. This move was to have been achieved by the last quarter of 2020. Covid has clearly had an impact on that timeframe, but it would be good to hear what the Minister of State has to say about the precise timing for the move. I know that Senator McDowell has tabled amendments on that issue.

I echo Senator McDowell's criticism of our treatment of persons with psychiatric illness both within our prisons and within the State in general. I will say a little more about that. This move is long overdue. It is very important that we see the new national forensic mental health campus in Portrane open but, even when it is open, we will still only have 170 beds available. I believe the Central Mental Hospital's capacity is 102 and this will be increased to 170. This will increase our number of secure forensic beds per 100,000 of population from 2 to 3.5. Most EU states have ten such beds per 100,000 so our capacity will still be only a third of that of most EU states. One international peer-reviewed journal published a study last year which found that Ireland was at the bottom of a table of 16 EU member states with regard to forensic bed capacity per head of population. That is a serious concern.

I also share Senator McDowell's concerns about the extent to which people with psychiatric issues are currently being detained within prisons where, in many cases, they cannot get access to the services they need. I am indebted to Mr. Cormac O'Keeffe of the Irish Examiner who wrote a piece in August in which he interviewed Professor Harry Kennedy, the long-standing director of the Central Mental Hospital. This piece also drew from some of the testimony which Professor Kennedy and others had given to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Future of Mental Health Care. The piece pointed out the very significant issue that the caseload of the national forensic mental health service in respect of in-reach programmes in prison was 250. That is a massive number of people who are detained in prisons and who require specialist psychiatric services. Professor Kennedy is quoted as saying Cloverhill Prison "is the trolley system for psychiatry", that is to say, it is like a sort of accident and emergency department waiting area where people are left on trolleys waiting for the treatment they require. That is terrible. It is an indictment of our criminal justice system.

In January 2019, the director general of the Irish Prison Service told the Committee of Public Accounts that "at any one time within our service we have between 20 and 30 prisoners on the waiting list for the Central Mental Hospital." This is a serious matter. Despite the fact that section 15 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 allows persons to be transferred to the Central Mental Hospital to receive care or treatment for a mental disorder, the cap on numbers and the limited supply of places available have prevented many people from getting the treatment they require. The director of the Central Mental Hospital, Professor Kennedy, has said that, even with the increase in capacity from 102 places to 170 following the move to Portrane, the new facility will be full within a very short space of time. That is a real concern.

I will also raise a couple of other concerns. The Minister of State has quite rightly pointed out that the language used with regard to psychiatric illness in our criminal law statutes is extremely outdated. As recently as 2006, we brought in major statutory reform through the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 but, unfortunately, even in the Title of this Act, we still used the outdated term, "insanity". By contrast, our mental treatment legislation refers to such psychiatric illnesses in more modern and contemporary terms. The term "insanity" no longer has a place in modern language.

I urge the Minister of State to take steps to change that. I raised this at the time we brought forward some amending legislation to the 2006 Act and it needs to be said again.

In addition, this Bill, although it is technical and very welcome, raises the broader question of our treatment of prisoners. Senator Conway referred to the time he and I spent on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. He will recall that he was a colleague on the committee when we published an extensive report on penal reform in 2013 in which we called for the implementation of a policy of prison only as a last resort and for a move away from the imposition of short custodial sentences for non-violent offenders. We were conscious that all the expert evidence pointed to an over-reliance on imprisonment in our system for minor offenders, who should be diverted. I convened an all-party penal reform group in the Oireachtas in the previous term and we brought in Professor Harry Kennedy to talk about very important and enlightened diversion programmes that divert those with psychiatric illness from the criminal justice system and imprisonment and into care and psychiatric treatment that are more community-based. We have a real issue with our prison system more generally. Interestingly, Mountjoy Prison, like the Central Mental Hospital, was built in 1850 and has similarly outdated structures. Great improvements have undoubtedly been made internally but we have seen the long fingering of any larger reform and reconstruction. This Bill gives us an opportunity to speak about a more enlightened, humane and progressive penal system, not just for those with psychiatric illness within our penal system but all of those who are incarcerated.

I begin by welcoming the Minister of State. Senator Bacik made an important point. Having a facility like this is important. I know that concerns have been raised with the Minister this morning and previously in the Dáil. Inasmuch as having a facility and resource is welcome and a step forward, we must be careful that we do not think for one second that it absolves the Prison Service of its responsibilities because not every mental health or psychological issue warrants a move to a facility like this. For this reason, a watching brief must be kept on the Prison Service regarding how it adapts, implements and enacts a very progressive, modern and patient-centred approach to those facing psychological and mental health challenges within the prison system.

Sinn Féin supports the Bill. I know my colleagues in the Dáil expressed their views on it to the Minister of State. I agree with Senator Conway that this is a significant site that has become available. There will be different views about how it should be utilised but certainly in the midst of a housing crisis, it would be useful to consider how we use and develop the site in a way that helps us address that crisis. Questions have also been raised here and earlier in the process about resourcing this new facility. Some of the concerns about how we do that have been flagged and I do not need to repeat them all this afternoon. I do not think any of the points raised by Senator McDowell take away from this but there are some very legitimate concerns about how this facility will be resourced. It has been a good debate thus far. It is important legislation. It is very technical in nature, as has been noted already, but it is certainly needed. We need to do our bit and ensure it gets through this House as well.

I join other Senators in welcoming the Minister of State to the House. I will never lose an opportunity like this to talk about the mental health of people who come from prisons into the Central Mental Hospital. I know something of the Central Mental Hospital as it is located in the former administrative area of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, of which I was a member for many years. It is important in this ongoing debate about the Central Mental Hospital to make clear that it is a hospital, not a prison. That is a fundamental distinction to make about this place. We know that historically there have been issues.

In preparing for today's debate, I came across an informative piece by Paul Cullen from The Irish Times, which referred to major abuses in terms of the facility and detention. In one case, a person was there in excess of 100 hours. I, too, served on the visiting committee for St. Patrick's Institution, which used to be next door to Mountjoy Prison. I experienced what my colleague, Senator McDowell, spoke about such as padded cells and issues around mental health. These were children, predominantly 16-year-olds to 18-year-olds, many of whom sought to go into these cells voluntarily because of the difficulties and issues they had. Again, it was the same square box with the same eye in the wall.

The Central Mental Hospital site is 13.4 ha and is an exceptionally valuable site. It is peppered with several unique protected structures which are a challenge in any redevelopment. We know the Land Development Agency has made claim to it. There are arrangements that it will build out this facility, a plan well-established with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. There is a plan for the site but the issue is the costs involved.

The Minister of State will note from various Ministers in the previous Administration - I circulated some newsletters today to some of my colleagues about this - that they announced that this money would be 100% ring-fenced for mental health services. The Minister of State has a huge commitment to mental health. I hope she will continue strongly to endorse that commitment to the money which will be transferred ultimately from the sale of this unique site. If the Land Development Agency gets its plan, it is proposed to be a mixed use site with social, affordable and rent-to-buy, along with the sale of private houses. It is well documented and there is no big secret about what is being proposed. The Government, in principle, supports the idea. The site is serviced by good public transport. We need to ring-fence a substantial amount of the money around the asset of this premises for the development of a new facility in Portrane.

I followed up with the Psychiatric Nurses Association, PNA, which estimates there is requirement for an additional 200 staff in this new facility and recruitment needs to start. Are we serious if we are talking about opening this facility in three months? I understand there is also an issue about the cost running into millions of euro to fit out this new facility. This facility is far from ready yet. We would be lucky and ambitious if we could get this transfer completed within the next few months. There are questions as to where that money is coming from. The PNA stated there is a requirement for more than 200 additional nurses, which Senator Clifford-Lee said is a welcome move. We need to have plans. I would like to hear the Minister of State tell us what will happen in terms of the staffing for this 120-bed forensic hospital.

There is also the issue of dignity and respect of the patients at this facility. It is important their human rights, dignity and respect are protected. There have been breaches in the past. We have learned an awful lot relating to the incarceration of people with special needs. It is an important point of which we must never lose sight.

I acknowledge the good work of the mental health tribunals which meet the patients and their advocates. Their advocates are the eyes and ears in terms of rights and respect in and around mental health issues and the challenges that come with these. It is important we acknowledge their particular good work.

What are the costs involved in the project? How can we ring-fence and stay online with the commitment for this money to go into mental health services, particularly with the Prison Service? More importantly, I would like to have more detail on a proactive recruitment drive to put in place the necessary psychiatric and support staff necessary for this new facility.

There are quite a lot of questions and I will do my best to get through them as best I can.

I knew this legislation was coming and have heard a lot about it since I took up my position on 1 July. Six weeks ago and before we went back into lockdown, I took the opportunity to visit both sites. I first visited the Dundrum facility where I met Professor Kennedy and some of his team. Due to Covid restrictions I was unable to see where some inmates, residents or detainees are detained but I saw quite a lot and spoke to some of the people who work there. It is a fantastic and beautiful site. I was unaware of it previously and when I drove there the high walls obscured a splendid Victorian building. I next visited Portrane hospital.

The Minister of State should have knocked on my door and called in to me.

As Senator Clifford-Lee said, the peninsula is beautiful. It must be a wonderful place to live because on the day of my visit the sun shone and the views were spectacular. I was extremely impressed by what I saw on my visit to what will be the new central mental hospital. The project is long overdue and the additional capacity is very welcome.

Many issues have been raised with regard to capacity. Senator Bacik is right that the capacity of the Central Mental Hospital was 102 in 2019 but is only 93 at the moment due to Covid. A certain number of isolation rooms had to be kept in case there was a major outbreak. The new state-of-the-art facility in Portrane is at an advanced stage of construction and is expected to open in the first half of 2021. I admit that there has been some slippage because of Covid. We only have an approximate relocation date. When I visited the site six weeks ago, the builders had reached the snagging stage and the project was approximately 98% complete. The project will be handed over in the new year. It will take approximately three months to equip, commission and train staff.

There will be 130 new beds in the new facility: a high-security unit with 40 beds; an intellectual disability unit with 20 beds; a medium secure unit with 30 beds; a pre-discharge unit with 20 beds; and a female unit with 20 beds. There will be 30 beds in the forensic intensive care and rehabilitation unit and ten beds in the forensic child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, unit. I saw the CAMHS unit and was very impressed.

I welcome the fact that, in 2002, Senator McDowell was to the fore in making sure that we no longer had padded cells and now have observation cells. The CAMHS unit is for youths and minors aged under 18 years who are very challenged and have probably come through the courts system but would not have been fit to stand trial. On my visit I was very impressed with the way the CAMHS unit was set out with individual rooms, green areas, sports areas and well-lit areas with high ceilings that improved the acoustics. The facilities are state-of-the art. I believe that when Covid passes the facilities are well worth a visit, especially for members of the health and justice committees, which have done so much work on these issues. However, I do not know whether a visit by the committees is possible.

Many people have said that we will still have capacity issues in years to come. As I said, we are increasing from 102 places to 170 places. Will it address the waiting list? It will, to some extent. It will increase capacity at the new campus but will not entirely keep pace with the trends in demand for places. It would be incorrect for me to say that it would. It will, however, certainly make a difference in the short term.

Improved forensic bed capacity is envisaged under phase 2 of this capital project, which provides for the two new 30-bed regional intensive care units in Cork and Galway under the multiannual HSE capital plan. This will be another 60 beds.

As Members are aware, Sharing the Vision is a ten-year programme for implementing a proper mental health service for all people. One in four of us will have a mental health illness at some stage in our lives. The majority of us will go to our GPs and get the help and supports we need. There are quite a lot of people, however, for whom that is not enough. They will need supports. Sharing the Vision is a person-centred approach. Last Friday we held the first meeting of the national implementation and monitoring committee, which is chaired by John Saunders of the Mental Health Commission. It is an independent committee. After the first meeting last Friday I was delighted and impressed that we have so many people with experience of working with mental health issues, and so many people who are positive about effecting change, who are all part of that committee. The committee comprises 15 or 16 people. There are also 30 to 40 people who have shown an interest and there will be three or four sub-committees put in place immediately in January 2021. One will be on the child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, and our waiting lists, and the other committee I want to see in place immediately will look at capacity for all mental health beds throughout the country, and not only at community level. It will be at all levels to see where we are going because we must plan for the future. Certainly, the extra beds being provided at this new facility will make a huge difference.

Senator McDowell raised many issues with regard to the justice system. The Government is committed to delivering on the acute and complex needs of people with mental health difficulties interacting with the criminal justice sector. The Department of Justice, in communication with the Department of Health, is in the process of establishing the cross-level, cross-departmental and cross-agency task force. The Senator is quite right that mental health cannot be less than health. It must come across all the different Departments in relation to justice, housing and social protection. We have had the first meeting. The Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, and I have all attended. We are at the early stages of setting up this high-level, cross-departmental and cross-agency task force. Under the prisons and penal reform heading in the programme for Government it is envisaged to improve links between health and judicial systems. This will examine the mental health and addiction challenges of those imprisoned and in primary care support on release.

Many questions were asked about the future plans for the Dundrum site. The site is owned by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland. An 11.3 ha Dundrum central development is to be located on the site of the former Central Mental Hospital after it relocates to Portrane. This will be progressed by the Land Development Agency, which is a commercial State-sponsored body set up to co-ordinate land within State control for more optimal uses where appropriate and with a focus on the provision of housing. A planning application for the Dundrum site is expected to be submitted in mid-2021 with construction to start in 2022, subject to planning approval. While the residential unit mix, number and ancillary uses will be determined as part of the design, a development of approximately 1,300 new build residential units, including reuse of the heritage building on the site is proposed. The Land Development Agency will engage in a consultation with the public and community groups on the scheme.

On Senator Boyhan's point, the site is being transferred into the Land Development Agency for the construction of housing. A commitment was given some years ago that profits from the sale of former mental health facilities would be refreshed into mental health services.

I think this is the point Senator Boyhan is making.

It was to be ring-fenced.

The Dundrum site is not being sold but transferred to a State-sponsored body for the purpose of increasing housing capacity, but I will certainly follow up on the point made by the Senator. It was raised last Thursday as well. That is the only information I have at the moment.

I thank the Minister of State. The times are allocated by order of the House. I think they are a little restrictive.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Is that agreed? Agreed.