Friday 21 July 2017

€28m bill for site that cannot be developed

Ahern pressurised to explain 'scandalous' waste of taxpayer money as State disastrously played at property speculation

Old and overcrowded Mountjoy Prison
Old and overcrowded Mountjoy Prison

DANIEL McCONNELL EXCLUSIVE

JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern is this weekend under fire to explain the "scandalous waste" of €28m of taxpayers' money on a site next to Mountjoy prison in Dublin, which now won't be developed.

The site, which used to house a former cash and carry business, was purchased by the State as part of plans to redevelop the Mountjoy site.

However, since last month's announcement that the Mountjoy redevelopment is now not proceeding, the site has become redundant and has now being lying idle for over a year.

Last month, Mr Ahern conceded that Mountjoy Prison would not now be closed when Thornton Hall is built, ending all plans for redevelopment of the site.

The Sunday Independent has confirmed that the OPW had purchased Egan's Cash and Carry site for €28.4m (including VAT) and took possession of the site in July 2009.

The OPW appointed a design team in order to seek full planning permission for the redevelopment of the Mountjoy Prison site. However, all work on the site has long since stopped.

Fine Gael Senator Paschal Donohoe, who obtained the information and supplied it to the Sunday Independent, described the affair as calamitous and scandalous.

"This is a scandalous waste of resources. This government wasted €28m of taxpayers' money on a property that has not been used since it was bought. What makes this worse is that this site is located beside Mountjoy Prison and across from the Mater Hospital. Both of these institutions suffer from chronic overcrowding. Meanwhile, we have a site purchased at huge expense to the taxpayer that has not been used at all.

"Having wasted so much money you'd hope the Government would do something with it. They have not because they no longer care. All they have to show for spending over €50m of our money is a field growing flowers and a site of growing weeds."

The field growing flowers -- Thornton Hall in north Co Dublin -- was supposed to be the site for a new jail built under a public-private partnership scheme on a greenfield site purchased by Government for €29m. Last month, Mr Ahern said Thornton will now only proceed on a phased basis and Mountjoy will remain open after all.

In 2007, the State said that with the Egan's site, the Mountjoy development would incorporate over 22 acres and the benefits of that development would "truly reverse the fortunes of this borough". In a submission to Dublin City Council, the OPW stated: "Mountjoy must be opened up, creating a space that is the catalyst for the regeneration of the local area, that aspires to create a sustainable urban community, that connects the Royal Canal back to the city.'' Responding to the high spend, the OPW said this weekend that the site is being partially used as a back-up storage facility for the Dochas Centre within Mountjoy.

"By arrangement with the Irish Prison Service, the OPW is decanting staff from Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station into the former prison officers' quarters behind Mountjoy Garda Station. In return, the IPS requested use of the former Egan's cash & carry premises to provide office facilities and storage associated with the Dochas Women's Centre."

Sunday Independent

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