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Sinn Féin to oppose super-prison at every opportunity – Ó Caoláin

27 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said his party will oppose at every opportunity the construction of a super-prison at Thornton Hall. Speaking today as the Government prepared to push a motion through the Dáil that would allow them to build the prison Deputy Ó Caoláin described the development of a super-prison as a retrograde step in the fight against crime as it has been shown that gangs flourish in such institutions.

He said, "Sinn Féin is opposed to the building of a super-prison full stop. The planned facility would have a capacity over four times the size of our current largest prison. 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.

"The Sinn Féin TDs have tabled an amendment to the government proposed motion. Our amendment would refer the matter back to Fingal County Council which is responsible for all other planning matters in the area and as such it will be responsible for many planning decisions relevant to the rest of the site. But ultimately we will be voting against the motion. We will oppose the building of this proposed super-prison at every opportunity.

"Sinn Féin also opposed the provision of the Prisons Act 2007, under which the government are acting today, which allows for the normal planning procedures to be circumvented in this manner. We believe that all developments should be subject to the independent oversight of An Bórd Pleanála and to the input of local elected representatives.

"Furthermore Sinn Féin also completely opposes any notion that the Central Mental Hospital be co-located at the Thornton Hall site or at the site of any prison. The proposal is an outrage and an insult to people with mental health problems. And we have the same view of proposals to detain children at Thornton Hall." ENDS

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