Dáil debates

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Development of Cork Prison: Motion

 

6:10 pm

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

noting:

-- that the Minister for Justice and Equality, having considered the need for a new prison in the Cork area, has decided to proceed with the development of a prison on a portion of the site used as Cork Prison, in the townland of Rathmore and city of Cork;

-- that the Minister for Justice and Equality has caused the documents specified in section 26(2) of the Prisons Act 2007 (No. 10 of 2007) relating to the development of a prison to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas together with a document containing the observations of that Minister on the environmental impact assessment and the report of the rapporteur;

-- that the proposed development relates to the construction of a prison:
(a) located on a portion of the site used as Cork Prison, in the townland of Rathmore and city of Cork;

(b) for the purpose of accommodating approximately 300 prisoners;

(c) which shall consist of buildings of a floor area of approximately 15,000 square metres within a site of approximately 2.64 hectares;

(d) the secure facilities within which shall be bounded by a perimeter wall approximately 7.2 metres in height; and

(e) which shall consist of buildings with a height of one, two and three storeys;
-- that the following alteration having been made by the Minister for Justice and Equality to the development, in accordance with section 25 of the Prisons Act 2007 (No. 10 of 2007), in order to mitigate its visual impact:
-- the reduction of the height of the perimeter wall forming the eastern, western and northern boundaries of the horticultural area at the northern end of the site to approximately 5.2 metres;
-- that an environmental impact assessment was prepared with respect to the proposed development;

-- that the Minister for Justice and Equality invited submissions or observations relating to the development of the prison from members of the public:
(a) by means of advertisements placed:
(i) in the following national publication on 8 November, 2012:

The Irish Examiner; and

(ii) in the following local publication on 8 November, 2012:

The Evening Echo;
(b) by the erection of site notices at two locations on the perimeter of the site; and

(c) by causing an announcement of the proposed development to be published:
(i) on the website of the Irish Prison Service; and

(ii) on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality;
-- that the proposed development will not have any significant effect on any European Site, within the meaning of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477 of 2011);

-- that the main measures taken to avoid, reduce or offset any possible significant adverse effects of the development on the environment are:
(a) the use of visually conditioned concrete with a light-coloured finish on the sections of the perimeter wall most visible to the public;

(b) the implementation of a traffic management plan as part of the construction environmental management plan;

(c) the mitigation of light impact by the use of low-level lighting and lighting cowls and the directing of all security lighting, other than the lighting in the area between the perimeter wall and the outer fence, inwards and away from residential property in the area of the prison boundary;

(d) the application of sustainable urban drainage design system principles to the site with the aim of ensuring that the surface water run off rate shall not exceed existing site greenfield rates;

(e) restrictions on the CCTV system to ensure that it is not used in a manner that facilitates viewing into neighbouring residential property;

(f) the use of obscured glazing in all windows overlooking neighbouring residential property;

(g) the mitigation of noise and dust by the construction of the perimeter wall before commencement of the construction of the prison buildings;

and

(h) appropriate landscaping of the entrance and car park areas;
-- that a visual representation of the exterior of the completed development appears at the end of this resolution;

-- that the conditions relating to the construction of the new prison to be complied with by the principal building contractor or developer engaged by the Minister are:
(a) that the development shall not vary in any material way from that outlined in the environmental impact assessment and the visual representations of the exterior of the completed development as laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas;

(b) that the construction schedule shall give priority to the construction of the perimeter wall in order to minimise the impact of construction within that perimeter on persons residing in the local community;

(c) that construction shall not commence until a construction environmental management plan has been drawn up by the principal contractor and approved by the Irish Prison Service and implemented in keeping with best practice and in particular the construction phase mitigation and other measures specified in sections 3.2, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8 and 3.11 of the environmental impact assessment shall be adhered to by the body or bodies contractually responsible for the construction of the development including any subcontractors;

(d) that normal construction and excavation work shall only take place between 08.00 hours and 19.00 hours Monday to Friday and between 08.30 hours and 16.30 hours on Saturdays, with no such work taking place on Sundays or public holidays;

(e) that an extensive programme of vermin eradication on the site and its environs shall be undertaken in the weeks immediately before the commencement of the works; and

(f) that appropriate noise, vibration and dust monitoring shall be undertaken throughout the construction period;
andresolves to approve the development of the said prison in the townland of Rathmore and city of Cork.
The existing prison in Cork, whose main cell block dates from the early 19th century, is no longer fit for purpose. The prison does not have in-cell sanitation and lacks the basic infrastructure required of a modern prison. The poor conditions have been strongly criticised by the Inspector of Prisons and Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, CPT. The Inspector of Prisons is of the view that the maximum capacity of the prison should be 146 prisoners. However, the prison has typically accommodated 270 or more prisoners. Very early in my appointment as Minister, I visited Cork Prison and saw at first-hand the chronic overcrowding and inadequate physical infrastructure.

The main purpose of the new prison facility is to replace the substandard prison accommodation in Cork and provide a modem prison facility designed on the principle of rehabilitation and resettlement. The construction of the new prison will eliminate the practice of prisoners having to slop out and provide adequate accommodation for prisoners in accordance with our national and international obligations. It will also provide the infrastructure necessary for the education and rehabilitation of prisoners. Building on the site adjacent to the existing prison will ensure value for money for the taxpayer.

The new prison will provide approximately 275 spaces for prisoners based on double cell occupancy. The prison will have a peak accommodation capacity for 310 prisoners which will only be reached in emergency circumstances. All the cells will have integral toilets and showers.

Development consent for the new prison is being sought under Part 4 of the Prisons Act 2007, which sets out a special procedure that may be applied to major prison developments. Part 4 provides a transparent mechanism for the Oireachtas to grant development consent by means of a resolution approved by each House and confirmed by an Act. The confirming Bill will be published after the resolutions have been approved. In June 2012, I issued a direction that Part 4 of the Act is to apply to the proposed prison development in Cork.

In November 2012, public notice was given of the proposed prison development and observations and submissions were invited. A rapporteur, Mr. James Farrelly, prepared a report identifying the main issues raised and summarising the submissions and observations received. Twelve submissions, including a detailed submission from Cork City Council, and several petitions were received. There is no provision under the legislation for the rapporteur to comment on the validity or otherwise of submissions made, nor is there any provision for him to make recommendations.

I have laid before the Houses the documents required by the legislation, which include the environmental impact assessment, visual representations of the exterior of the development and the rapporteur's report. I also took the opportunity to lay a document setting out my observations on the environmental impact assessment and the rapporteur's report.

The resolution lists the main measures taken to avoid, reduce or offset any possible significant adverse effects of the development on the environment and sets out the conditions to be complied with in the construction of the prison. Visually conditioned concrete with a light-coloured finish will be used on the sections of the perimeter wall most visible to the public. To address a specific concern about the impact on residential property adjacent to the site, the height of the wall around the horticultural area at the northern end of the site will be reduced to approximately 5.2 m.

The existing prison in Cork is the only closed prison in the State without a prison standard perimeter wall. As the new prison will have such a wall and an outer cordon sanitaire secured by a 2.5 m fence, security risks will be significantly reduced. The need to prevent drugs or contraband being thrown into the prison from outside has been carefully considered in the prison design.

As regards privacy issues, the CCTV system will be restricted to prevent viewing into neighbouring residential property and obscured glazing will be used in all windows overlooking such property.

The Irish Prison Service and the principal contractor will liaise closely with An Garda Síochána, Cork City Council and other interested parties in preparing a traffic management plan to minimise the impact of construction traffic on local residents and businesses. To reduce noise and dust during the construction period, the perimeter wall will be constructed before construction of the prison buildings begins.

The Irish Prison Service will draw up a good-neighbour policy to provide a framework under which the concerns of local residents can be dealt with. The Irish Prison Service project manager will act as liaison officer and will set up a local consultation group to address any issues that arise during the construction period. Construction of the new prison is expected to commence in October 2013 and be completed in early 2016.

This resolution was discussed by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on Wednesday, 12 June. All parties are represented on the committee and I understand that many of the committee members have visited Cork Prison and seen the conditions there. The committee was strongly in favour of the development of the new prison in Cork. As action is urgently required to address the chronic overcrowding and inadequate conditions in Cork Prison, I hope the resolution and the confirming Bill will be passed by both Houses before the summer recess so that tendering for the construction of the new prison can proceed.

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