New Junior Health Minister John Moloney today vowed to press ahead with plans to build a super prison on the same site as the new Central Mental Hospital.
Mr Moloney today told the Oireachtas Health Committee that a Government decision had been made on the 30 million euro Thornton Hall complex in north Co Dublin and he supported it.
Cross-party members of the Committee said accommodating mental health patients on the same campus with criminals would reinforce social stigmatisation.
Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan implored to Mr Moloney to revisit the issue with an open mind in his role as a junior minister with specific responsibility for mental health.
Mr Moloney said: “My open mind view is that a decision has already been taken by the Government.”
Fine Gael’s health spokesman Dr James Reilly said patients would not be cared for in the best possible environment in Thornton Hall.
Opposition TD Dan Neville claimed that the prison’s watchtower would also be overlooking the Central Mental Hospital.
TDs also claimed that plans to transport visitors to both facilities on the same bus service from central Dublin would further add to social stigmatisation.
Fine Gael TD Paul Connaughton said: “It’s not acceptable to have mental patients on the same site as rapists and thugs and every conman in the country.”
He added: “No matter what trees you plant between the hospital and the prison, it will still be a prison next door.”
Members of the Committee visited the Thornton Hall site in recent months.
The land at Rathsallagh was bought by the state for €200,000 an acre despite adjoining sites being sold for one-tenth of that price.
The Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) later criticised the purchase price paid, the size of the land and the failure to pay attention to the extra costs of developing roads into the site.
The state’s decision to openly say it was buying the land for a prison site meant the landowner was able to hike up the price, the C&AG concluded.
Fianna Fail TD Bobby Aylward said any decision by the Government would have an impact on mental health patients for the next 200 years.
“We will need to be able to stand over the decision for years to come,” he added.
Dr Reilly claimed the Government should look at building the Central Mental Hospital on some of the land bank owned by the state.
Fianna Fáil Committee member Mary White said the decision to locate the facilities at Thornton Hall was political and motivated by money.