Dáil Éireann - Volume 560 - 30 January, 2003
Mr. Gogarty Mr. Gogarty
Mr. Gogarty: I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform asking him which land areas had been examined in regard to the proposed facility for the Prison Service headquarters, a storage facility and juvenile place of detention. I was disappointed with the response in which I was told that, on foot of advertisements, submissions regarding 25 properties had been received and that another 15 sites were in State ownership. I was disappointed I was not given any details on any of these alternative facilities which might have helped. Possibly, some submissions were made in confidence and I can only presume they were made by landowners who were not able to have their land rezoned for residential purposes and possibly thought they could make a few bucks by selling it as prison space.
I know Inchicore was turned down as a site and that Lucan was considered. I wish to point to the unsuitability of the site at Newlands Villa. That is the reason I ask the Minister to strongly consider reviewing the matter. Although an advertisement was placed in the newspapers before Christmas in this regard, it is still not too late to stop it. The response to the parliamentary question I tabled stated no final decision had been taken but given that an advertisement has been placed seeking submissions, etc., the Government must be strongly considering the Clondalkin site.
There are a number of reasons the site is not suitable. It is located on the Naas Road in the Tallaght electoral area just outside my constituency of Dublin Mid-West. It is, however, in the townland of Clondalkin in which there are already two prison facilities. I have never been an advocate of the “not in my back yard” syndrome but there is a certain siege mentality in Clondalkin which is considered to be a disadvantaged area, no less than Tallaght. I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, is keeping an eye on proceedings.
That is a minor point but the main point is that the proposed site is located in a green belt area which has for years been fought for by the communities in Kingswood, Tallaght and Clondalkin. It is a precious piece of land because some of the other land in the area is owned by the IRFU. There is a belief that if the facility goes ahead and a significant chunk of the green belt is eaten into, the rest of it will be diminished and there will be no green belt along the Belgard Road and the Naas dual carriageway between Clondalkin and Tallaght.
I suggest the Minister uses an existing brown field site or facility such as the one in Shanganagh which, given its type, would have to be significantly altered. I have received submissions from various members of the Prison Service on the q.t. in that regard. Whatever his thoughts on the matter, will the Minister look again at its location? There are other facilities on greenfield sites which would not act as a border between areas and have potential. There is a reliable public transport service, even as far out as Maynooth, and land banks available, possibly at agricultural land prices, which would be more suitable.
I highlight the significant danger to the public arising from the proposed location which borders the Naas dual carriageway, off which access would be gained. A key point is that South Dublin County Council planners have made a submission objecting in the strongest terms to the proposed location. The zoning of the land allows for prison utilities, a Travellers' halting site, certain types of golf developments or spaced out agriculture type housing. The planners take a realistic view in regard to zoning for amenity purposes but, using their expert analysis, have decided the proposed development is not in the interests of proper planning and development of the Clondalkin-Tallaght area. I hope their submission will be taken on board by the Commissioners of Public Works. If not, I hope the Minister will take it on board.
I do not know whether the Tánaiste and Deputy Curran from the Dublin Mid-West constituency have made representations to the Minister but as an Opposition Deputy, my hands are not as tied. Will the Minister take into consideration the fact that South Dublin County Council has stated it is a dangerous location? The National Roads Authority generally would not allow road access. I, therefore, question the reason it is allowing it in this case. I urge the Minister to review this location. While we need prison facilities, this is the wrong location.
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am grateful to the Deputy for raising this matter. I stress that the fact the advertisement to which he referred was published is by no means evidence that any decision has been made. I know he understands this to be so. Likewise, I understand completely what he said about the opposition of local residents in his constituency and the constituency of Dublin South West. I am also conscious that the local authority has expressed in the strongest terms an objection to the plan on a number of grounds. In those circumstances, I must obviously consider whether this proposal, which is not one that comes from me but which has been put to me, should be proceeded with.
I am examining a number of options, including some of the options mentioned by the Deputy, but not the particular options of Inchicore and Lucan to which he referred. The Deputy will appreciate that the development was supposed to consist of three elements: a store, a prison service headquarters and a juvenile detention centre. One possibility is that, in the context of the Government's programme for decentralisation, the head office of the prison service might be moved out of Dublin. That is an option which I want to consider.
I also wish to consider whether it is necessary to build a juvenile detention centre of this type at all. The Deputy may or may not know that in recent times the special school facilities that were to be provided for younger offenders in St. Patrick's Institution have been the subject of a review by the Government. Whether or not they will be devoted to 14 and 15 year old offenders and unruly children is now the subject matter of a review. It may well be that these will become available to augment St. Patrick's Institution. I must also consider whether, or when, a new institution for 16 and 17 year old offenders is required and whether it should be built in Dublin or elsewhere.
I have not yet reached a firm conclusion as regards the decision I will have to make on this proposal. It is a matter upon which I will require more time to examine all the options open to me.
Mr. Gogarty Mr. Gogarty
Mr. Gogarty: What sort of timeframe is the Minister considering?
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell: I hope to come to a decision on the matter within the next six weeks.
 Lest the Deputy should be in any way doubtful about the issue, Deputies Curran and Harney have expressed views to me on behalf of their constituents. A number of other Deputies from the general region of west Dublin and in neighbouring constituencies have also expressed strong views. In arriving at a conclusion, I will take all those views into account along with the many representations I have received from residents in the vicinity, the local authority and the views of my colleagues in Government.
I wish to emphasise, however, that this matter is certainly not something on which any conclusive decision has been made. I hope to come to such a decision within approximately six weeks.
The Dáil adjourned at 5.25 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 4 February 2003.
Dáil Éireann 560 Prison Service.