The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern TD, today announced  Government approval for the procurement of the first two prison blocks at the prison campus at Thornton. These two blocks will provide 400 high grade cells suitable to accommodate up to 700 prisoners. 

The Minister said the Government had decided on a phased construction of the campus, ultimately providing 1,400 cells with a capacity for 2,200 prisoners. Phase one would see the delivery of the first 400 cells by 2014.

Minister Ahern said: "The Government has opted to press ahead with the Thornton campus on a phased basis through a traditional procurement process. The previous Public Private Partnership tender competition envisaged that the entire prison campus with all 1,400 cells would have been constructed as one job and no cells would have entered into operational service until the entire campus was complete and handed over to the Irish Prison Service.

"This phased approach will allow us to build the prison in stages and allows for an earlier opening of the first cells at Thornton. My aim is to provide new spaces at the earliest date possible. I have instructed Irish Prison Service senior management to proceed to implement this decision in the shortest possible timeframe.

"The contract to build the access road will be signed this week and the invitation to tender for the construction of the perimeter wall will issue in September. A separate tender competition for the construction of the first 400 cells will be launched in early 2011 so that in line with the development consent process, work can commence on the main campus once the perimeter wall has been constructed.

"Going to tender for the work makes sense in an environment where construction costs have fallen significantly. It also will allow us deliver on badly needed prison spaces earlier than relying on a more protracted PPP timescale

"The building of the Thornton Campus is a cornerstone of our prison policy. It will deliver lower annual operating costs and much better prisoner facilities when opened. In addition we will continue to provide additional cell spaces. Since 1997, almost 1,800 spaces have been provided".

The Minister added that a further 200 spaces are being provided in the short term through the opening shortly of a new block at Wheatfield Prison. Work is expected to start later this year on a new 300-space block in the Midlands Prison complex.

27 July 2010