Sunday 4 January 2009

€10m spent on maintaining vacant super-prison site

Almost €10 million of public funds has been spent, maintaining, landscaping and securing the site for the proposed Thornton Hall super-prison in north county Dublin.

The state has now spent more than €45 million on the stalled prison project, including the €29.9million spent buying the land in 2005. Formal contracts to build the prison have not yet been signed and the 150-acre site is lying idle. The Department of Justice said the €10 million was spent on ‘‘preliminary site works’’, including ‘‘legal and technical specialist advice’’. T he bill includes spending on topographical and archaeological surveys of the site, as well as the cost of ensuring that local hunters cannot gain access to the land to shoot pheasants.

However, there is increasing uncertainty about the future of the proposed prison in light of the economic downturn. The government recently sought assurances from the Leargas consortium selected to build the prison that it will be able to finance the project. It contacted the consortium after more than 20 banks withdrew from the funding process because of the international liquidity crisis. T he Leargas consortium, which includes property developer Bernard McNamara and Barclays Bank, has already informed government that the state would have to contribute more funds to the public-private partnership (PPP) project if it is to go ahead.

Justice minister Dermot Ahern has said that the aim is to sign a contract for the building of the prison early this year.

Sunday Business Post

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