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Sinn Féin to oppose Dáil resolution on Thornton Hall prison – Ó Snodaigh

15 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh this afternoon attended a briefing from officials at the Department of justice at which he was informed that a Dáil resolution will be brought forward next week in order to give the final go ahead for the construction of a super-prison at the Thornton Hall site. Speaking afterwards Deputy Ó Snodaigh said Sinn Féin will be opposing the resolution.

He said, "Section 26 of the Prisons Act 2007 allows for the normal procedures in relation to planning permission to be circumvented by a Dáil resolution. The Department of Justice intends to use this provision next week, for the first time ever, to bring forward a resolution to give the final go ahead for the construction of a prison for 2,200 prisoners at the Thornton Hall site.

"Sinn Féin opposed the provision as it allows for the independent oversight mechanism An Bord Pleanála to be bye-passed.

"I fear the development of this super-prison will be a retrograde step in the fight against gangland crime. Just like the U.S. prison model gangs will flourish in such institutions. In Sinn Féin's view the existing prison stock should be modernised and over-crowding should be addressed both through the development of smaller scale prison units at a number of locations and through ending the practice of imprisoning simple fine defaulters.

"We would agree with a number of the submissions made to the appointed Rapporteur James Farrelly which pointed out that 'the construction of smaller scale prisons enhance the prospect of rehabilitating offenders [and] the current design envisaged is not conducive to combating violence within prisons'.

"In addition to this the controversy and murky dealings which surrounded the original purchase of the site at a cost to the tax-payer that was many times over its actual value has never been resolved. Many of the questions around this have not been answered.

"Sinn Féin will be opposing the resolution when it arises next week. A range of important issues are not dealt with in the motion and it should really go to the Oireachtas Committee for a more thorough scrutiny." ENDS

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