Thursday 25 May 2017

Plans for offenders' centre spark anger

WRONG STEP: Model Lucy Evangelista with Louis Copeland. Mr Copeland is one of the business people who are opposed to the plans to move the centre for offenders.
WRONG STEP: Model Lucy Evangelista with Louis Copeland. Mr Copeland is one of the business people who are opposed to the plans to move the centre for offenders.

ALISON O'RIORDAN

Shop owners in and around Dublin's busy Capel Street/ Henry Street area are furious at plans by the Department of Justice to put a centre for offenders in the middle of their community.

The Bridge Project wants to site the new centre on Wolfe Tone Street in central Dublin.

The Department of Justice wishes to relocate this premises from Smithfield's Haymarket building to the heart of the Dublin business district.

Now locals are living in fear for their well-being and their businesses.

The department plans to put the residential centre in a building owned by developer Liam Carroll and his wife Roisin.

However, on top of this commercial unit are 84 privately owned residential apartments.

Among those on the board of management of the Bridge Project are high-profile judges Michael Moriarty of the High Court and tribunal fame and Judge Yvonne Murphy from the Dublin Circuit Court.

Dublin city councillors on the Central Area Committee in Dublin City Council (DCC) have passed a motion calling on Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to relocate the centre to a less residential area.

High-profile tailor Louis Copeland, owner of the men's formal wear shop on Capel Street, said "it's a great idea, but the wrong location".

Another business owner in the area who has joined the fight to reject the facility is Johnny Drake, owner of the kingfisher restaurant on Parnell Street and Dublin city apartments.

"It's in the best interests of Tourism Ireland to ensure that these types of facilities are kept out of the vital city centre tourist hotspots," he said.

Richard Guilney, chief executive of The Dublin Business Improvement District, said "we cannot afford to continue with isolated decisions that impact detrimentally on the entire city".

Michael Duffy, a local antiques dealer who owns one of the 84 apartments in the block above where the centre is planned, was not notified about the plans by the Department of Justice.

"Mary Street and Henry Street, apart from Grafton Street, are the shopping streets in Dublin. I can't see it helping anybody. The first I knew was when I looked online and googled what the Bridge Project was about," he said.

The owner of Alexander's Bridal Shop on the corner of Wolfe Tone Street, Tina Dempsey, believes to open a prison rehabilitation in a city centre location is scandalous: "We are paying a lot of money to bring our city on and then we have them opening this rehabilitation centre, it's nonsense.

"This is my twelfth year in business and when we started it was quite deserted and lonely and it has been built up, it may not be fully there yet but we are getting there and this knocks us back considerably," she said.

The Department of Justice have until May 14 to apply for planning permission and as soon as the plans go up, residents can object.

Last Tuesday, Mr Ahern said: "This project is not an addiction treatment centre, a drop-in centre, or a residential centre.

"We would also like to put on record that neither I nor my department has now, nor in the past, had any interest in circumventing planning regulations in order to move the work of a project that has operated in Dublin 1 for 15 years to more suitable premises within Dublin 1.

"All our negotiations were done in good faith and the issues that came to attention are being examined as quickly and as diligently as possible."

Sunday Independent

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