257. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the use of land at a location (details supplied). [27913/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): A Working Group has considered options, including (in conjunction with the OPW) future uses for the Thornton site which is fully serviced and adjacent to the airport. There are no definite plans as yet for this strategic State asset but this is kept under review.
At present, there is a small Community Service site operational at Thornton Hall. The work concentrates on operational horticultural projects with the produce being distributed to Charitable Organisations.
The Thornton Hall site comprising of 156 acres was purchased in 2005 for a proposed large scale prison campus to replace Mountjoy Prison which was to be sold to fund the development. Due to the downturn in the economy, the scale of the project could not be accommodated within the capital allocation available and the project did not proceed. Over the decade since the original plan, international research has tended towards smaller prisons within reach of support communities as the best option for rehabilitation. In addition, in light of the decision not to proceed with Thornton, significant capital investment has been made at the Mountjoy campus over recent years to upgrade accommodation and eliminate the practice of slopping out.
The Irish Prison Service now proposes to further develop the Mountjoy site through a Masterplan over the period 2021-2031 as referred to in the National Development Plan. The aim is to bring the remainder of the prison up to an acceptable modern standard capable of serving needs into the future, including requirements for contemporary vehicular and emergency access, prisoner reception and discharge facilities, appropriate modern visitor facilities for families, much enhanced facilities for prisoner care and rehabilitation, indoor and outdoor recreation, healthcare, education and work/training, appropriate staff facilities, and improved wider service areas such as laundry and kitchen facilities.
Therefore, while future plans for the Thornton site will be considered in the context of broader State requirements for land assets, plans in relation to the Prison estate continue to evolve and respond to changing requirements and practices in relation to detention of prisoners.