€70m plan for super prison put ‘on hold’

PLANS for a €70 million super prison for Munster have been put on ‘the long finger’ because of the current state of the Government’s finances.

Michael McDowell announced plans for the prison in January 2007 when he was then minister for justice.

The site earmarked for the prison was in Kilworth, Co Cork, and it was to be built on 80 acres of land owned by the Department of Defence.

Mr McDowell said at the time the new facility was needed to replace Cork prison which was overcrowded and not up to the modern standards required.

Initially, Department of Justice officials looked at redeveloping the prison on Spike Island in Cork Harbour, but a number of objections were lodged by local people and the cost of building a €20m bridge onto the island was also seen as prohibitive.

It emerged yesterday the Kilworth facility has been effectively mothballed because of the current financial situation.

Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock said the development of a major jail in Kilworth was seen as a key element in the Prison Service’s modernisation programme.

However, he said that while Department of Justice officials accepted conditions at Cork prison were far from ideal, in the present financial climate the money wasn’t there to develop the alternative facility in Kilworth. He said he had been informed that ‘ambitious projects’ such the Kilworth prison “would take longer to progress than initially proposed”.

“Basically, this project has been long-fingered. At the present time I don’t see it coming on the horizon very soon. It is a fair assumption to make that capital spending projects of this nature will be severely curtailed,” Mr Sherlock said.

He said he would continue to keep an eye on the situation.

“But given the precarious state of the country’s finances I couldn’t see it (the prison) going ahead any time soon,” the deputy said.

The site earmarked for the prison is in a very isolated area surrounded by 1,600 acres of land used by the army for training exercises.

Four years ago Michael McDowell said it was difficult to keep Cork prison drug-free as it was in the city.

Drugs have been smuggled into the jail and thrown over the wall.

Mr McDowell said he believed building the new prison in such an isolated site would reduce the amount of drugs inmates were able to get their hands on.

At first local people expressed concern about locating a prison in Kilworth.

However, many saw it as creating much-needed employment, especially after major jobs losses were announced in nearby Fermoy, with the closure of the electronics factory FCI and the relocation of Quinn Healthcare to Little Island.


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