More than 40 prison officers have been taken on to staff 550 extra jail spaces despite a recruitment embargo, it was revealed today.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern also insisted his officials were pushing ahead with plans for a new jail on the controversial Thornton Hall site in north Dublin.
“Revised plans for Thornton Hall prison aim to protect the taxpayers’ interests while, at the same time, providing modern, regime-focused and operationally efficient accommodation to replace the Mountjoy prison complex,” the minister said.
Mr Ahern said Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had given the go-ahead for extra prison staff to be recruited even though the public sector has been under a recruitment freeze since March.
“The terms of the moratorium provide that in exceptional circumstances recruitment may take place with the approval of the Minister for Finance,” Mr Ahern said.
A new wing in Castlerea Prison opened this week to house more than 100 prisoners in 52 double cells and a 12 single cell area for vulnerable inmates.
New blocks will open in Wheatfield and the high security Portlaoise for 200 inmates each, while a refurbished separation unit for 50 prisoners is being finished in Mountjoy.