Ministers may face court action over jail

Caroline O’Doherty and Michael Brennan

Solicitors acting on behalf of a resident living close to the 150-acre site at Thorntown/Kilsallaghan yesterday issued letters to Michael McDowell and Brian Cowen seeking an undertaking within two days that no further steps would be taken to proceed with the development and threatening legal proceedings in default. A spokesman for the Department of Justice confirmed last night that it had received the letter and said officials were examining its contents before issuing a formal response to it.

Mr McDowell vowed earlier in the day the site would not be changed despite growing opposition from neighbouring landowners and householders.

“I believe it is a good location for the prison,” he said. “The Prison Service is now getting into the process of discussions with the local community so that adverse implications can be minimised.”

He said he was certain that wherever the site for the prison and hospital was chosen, even if it was in the Bog of Allen, there would be neighbours who would be concerned about effects on their neighbourhood.

The unnamed female objector, who is represented by fellow Kilsallaghan resident, Ciaran Lawlor, of Lawlor O’Reilly & Co, Solicitors, claims her Constitutional rights will be breached by the development because she has had no opportunity to object to it through the planning procedures. She claims exemption of the development from the normal planning process is a breach of her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. She also questions the manner in which the 29.9m site was bought by the Government, saying it may have breached normal procurement procedures.

Initial attempts to locate a suitable site included public advertisements inviting offers from landowners with substantial holdings within a 20-mile radius of Dublin city but the chosen site was purchased following a direct approach to a landowner who had not offered his property for sale.

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