As the Deputy is aware, the Thornton Hall site was purchased in 2005 with the intention of constructing a large scale prison campus to replace the 19th century complex at Mountjoy Prison which the then Government planned to sell to fund the development. Due to the downturn in the economy, the scale of the project could not be accommodated within the capital allocation available and the project did not proceed. In the decade since the original plan, international research has tended to favour smaller prisons within reach of support communities as the best option for rehabilitation. In addition, in light of the decision not to proceed with Thornton Hall, significant capital investment has been made at the Mountjoy campus over recent years to upgrade accommodation and eliminate the practice of slopping out.
In the meantime, the Thornton Hall site, which is fully serviced and adjacent to Dublin airport, remains in my Department’s ownership. In recent years a working group, which included representatives from the OPW, considered future use options for the site. This included discussions with Fingal County Council. More recently, the site has also been flagged to the Department of Housing and Local Government, and to the Land Development Agency. As such, the site will be considered both in the context of broader State requirements for land assets as well as any future requirements in relation to detention of prisoners.