CONSTRUCTION of a €100m new 'super-prison' capable of handling over 600 inmates will not begin until late 2008 - despite the fact that severe overcrowding has now been blamed for a spate of attacks on prison officers.
Three prison officers based at Cork jail are currently recovering from minor injuries sustained in separate attacks over the past week.
Cork Prison - one of the most overcrowded in Ireland - was designed with an inmate capacity of 160 but has been catering for 278 prisoners, which is 73pc more that its limit.
However, the Irish Independent has learned that Kilworth Prison in north Cork - which is scheduled to replace Cork Prison - won't begin construction until late 2008 and is unlikely to be commissioned before 2010/2011.
Ironically, this is despite the fact that the prison doesn't even require planning permission because it is sited on former Defence Force lands.
The Government has still to decide whether the state-of-the-art mixed jail will be funded directly by the Exchequer or will be financed as part of a Public Private Partnership arrangement.
This week, outline proposals on the prison are being circulated amongst community groups in north Cork who have, so far, given the project on Lynch Camp lands a cautious welcome.
However, prison officers want the proposed prison developed as a matter of priority - particularly since Spike Island jail was mothballed and a proposed expansion of Cork Prison was dropped.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell has already revealed that the Cabinet ratified in principle the Kilworth location over the long-favoured site on Spike Island.
The Cork harbour island is now expected to be developed as a multi-million euro tourism, leisure and heritage site.
Mr McDowell - who personally toured the Lynch Camp site in Kilworth last January - confirmed that he now expects work to begin shortly on the project.