Tuesday 20 May 2008

Minister rejects 'buy-out' call for residents near new prison

THE MINISTER for Justice, Dermot Ahern, has said there are no proposals to introduce a “buy-out” scheme for home owners with properties near the controversial new “super-prison” at Thornton Hall in north Dublin.

He also rejected “any allegations of impropriety in the site selection process”, and said that he is “strongly of the view” that proceeding with the development at Thornton Hall is the best possible option. However, he noted that this was a matter for the Oireachtas to decide.

Mr Ahern was commenting after yesterday publishing details of a rapporteur’s report into the proposed Thornton Hall prison.

The rapporteur, James Farrelly, was appointed in July 2007 to outline the content of submissions from parties with an interest in the project during a six-week period.This concluded on April 11th last.

He received 130 separate submissions, from both individuals and groups. Mr Farrelly highlighted a wide range of concerns about the proposed new prison among those who participated in the process.

These included fears that the “value, saleability and appearance of residences and local businesses will be adversely affected by the existence of the prison”, and suggestions that residents affected in this manner “should have the option of being bought out or financially compensated”.

However, Mr Ahern said that there are “no proposals to introduce a buy-out scheme”.

Mr Ahern also said there were no plans to move high-risk prisoners such as terrorists to the site, and added that the cordon sanitaire around the prison meant it is “not feasible to try and launch drugs and other material over the perimeter wall to an area where prisoners have access”.

“There is no reason to believe that the development itself will result in local residents being more exposed to drug dealing or discarded drug-related paraphernalia,” he added.

Mr Ahern said the majority of local businesses should benefit from the development, but acknowledged that others “may be adversely affected”.

He said the new development had been “specifically designed to ensure a secure environment both along the perimeter as well as inside the development”, and noted that the R130 road will not be used during construction or operation of the prison.

Mr Ahern said the main purpose of the new facility, which is being designed to cater for 1,400 prisoners in single cells, is to replace the “substandard” prison accommodation in Mountjoy.

Irish Times


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