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Tuesday 25 October 2016

Tánaiste open to use of jail for crisis housing

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Steve Humphreys
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Steve Humphreys

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said she is open to proposals from homeless charities that want to use the decommissioned Cork Prison for emergency housing.

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However, the Dublin TD said her department currently has no plans for the 210-year-old jail - and stressed that any refurbishment for its use as emergency housing would likely require substantial investment.

Housing charities have appealed for the former prison to be used as an emergency housing resource, as they warned that homelessness and the social housing crisis in Cork were now the worst they had ever dealt with.

The potential use of the former prison as a tourist centre has effectively been ruled out by the success of the older Cork Gaol in Sunday's Well as a visitor attraction. That prison predates the Rathmore Road facility, which operated from 1806 until last February, when all its prisoners were transferred to a €45m new jail built across the road.

The Tánaiste said she would carefully consider all proposals with regard to the old Rathmore Road facility.

"Really, a lot of money would be needed to make it usable going forward," she said.

"But if there is a possibility of it being used, then it will of course be examined. We have an open mind on that."

"But it would require a considerable amount of investment."

When asked if the Government had considered the old jail as a State emergency housing resource she replied: "Not at this point."

The old prison is structurally sound, but the lack of in-cell sanitation is considered a major issue for its use as an accommodation centre.

Opened as a military detention unit by the British Army in 1806, the barracks came under Irish Government control in 1922 and, in 1972, was redeveloped for use as a civilian prison.

While designed for 150 prisoners, Cork Prison often handled almost 300 inmates, making it one of the most overcrowded jails in the State.

Irish Independent

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