Minister amends plans for Cork Prison

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said changes have been made to plans for a new Cork Prison to address some concerns raised by the city council and residents.

A report published by the minister over a week ago, based on a consultation process with interested parties, raised serious concerns from Cork City Council and several residents’ associations.

Householders were worried about certain security issues, effects on their privacy, traffic matters, and falling property prices, with two separate petitions — carrying over 200 names — against the proposal.

The city council said the proposed design contravened planning policies as the walls of the new prison complex were too high, and would be out of character to the area around The Glen.

City Hall members also claimed it would undermine a 10-year plan to regenerate the locality, at a cost of €38m.

However, Mr Shatter invoked legislation which bypasses normal planning laws and allows him to seek authorisation from the Oireachtas to grant a prison development.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, he said measures had been taken “to avoid, reduce, or offset any possible significant adverse effects” of the development on the environment.

These include:

*Visually conditioned concrete with a light-coloured finish on sections of the wall most visible to the public;

*Reduction in the height of the prison wall to 5.2m at the site adjacent to residential property;

*Restrictions to the CCTV system to prevent viewing into houses;

*Obscured glazing in all windows overlooking such property;

*Traffic management plans to reduce impact of construction traffic;

*The Irish Prison Service is to draw up a Good Neighbour Policy.

Mr Shatter said construction was expected to start this October and finish in early 2016. The new prison will replace the current Dickensian jail — built for 146 people but housing around 240 inmates — with a new, larger, prison for 275 inmates (and a maximum of 310).

The inmates will be housed in double occupancy cells which will have their own toilets and showers. Currently inmates have to slop out in front of each other into containers.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Jesuit Centre have welcomed the ending of “slopping out” but criticised double occupancy of cells. The Jesuit Centre said it was a “retrograde” step and in breach of international best practice.

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