By Ann O'Loughlin
A construction company has brought a legal challenge to the awarding of the €53m contract for the replacement of a wing of Limerick Prison and the building of a new women's prison.
Glenbeigh Construction has however agreed to the lifting of an automatic stay on the awarding of the contract which kicks in once a legal challenge to a tender is initiated.
This is because, the court heard, conditions in the prison are "extremely grave" and it is in the public interest that "slopping out", overcrowding, and risk of disease in the prison is ended.
The contract for the prison improvement works, which will include a 103-cell wing to replace the existing men's B-wing, a new unit for women prisoners, and new probation service offices, was awarded to PJ Hegarty last June following a public competition.
Glenbeigh then brought proceedings against the Minister for Justice and Equality for an order under EU public authorities' contracts regulations setting aside and/or permanently suspending the decision by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) to award the contract to PJ Hegarty.
Glenbeigh says, among other things, that the Minister is in breach of those regulations and is wrongfully and/or unlawfully discriminating against Glenbeigh in favour of other tenderers.
It also says the Minister failed to disclose to Glenbeigh all of the criteria/requirements that it applied in the evaluation of its tender.
It says the outcome of the contract competition was vitiated by manifest error.
It seeks a number of orders including the quashing of the decision and declarations including that the Minister failed to provide Glenbeigh with a summary of its reasons or adequate reasons for the decision.
The case was admitted on consent to the High Court's fast-track commercial list today.
Jonathan Newman SC, for the Minister, said when such a challenge is brought under EU regulations an automatic suspension on the awarding of the contract comes into force pending determination of the legal proceedings.
However, counsel said, Glenbeigh had agreed to the lifting of that automatic suspension.
This is in circumstances where there is an urgent need to deal with the slopping out and associated issues relating to a facility which was first built in 1821, he said.
Mr Justice Robert Haughton made directions for exchange of papers between the parties and adjourned the case.