Farmer faces legal action if he doesn't remove animals from land earmarked for unbuilt prison

Dairy Farmer Jim Scully.
Dairy Farmer Jim Scully.

Sarah Slater

A farmer who placed animals on land earmarked for a ‘super prison’ which was never built is facing legal action if he does not remove them.

Farmer, Jim Scully who has lived along Kilreesk lane in St Margaret’s north Dublin since 1989 placed cattle and horses on the 165 acre site  known as Thornton Hall in Kilsallaghan, Swords, in November last year as it has been lying idle for the past 15 years.

In 2005, the country’s first planned ‘super prison' was mooted to be able to house 2,200 prisoners. The site, a farm was owned by Richard and Una Lynam whose family  farmed the land for more than 50 years.

The purchase price, at €32 million or €200,000 per acre, was far in excess of the value of land at the time. The site, which has lain idle for the past 15 years is now worth an estimated €2.4 million.

A recent request, earlier this year, under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) by the media to the prison service revealed while almost €51 million has been spent on the site since 2005, all expenditure has now stopped apart from payments for security patrols in the area.

Works to install access roads and vital services to the site, such as sewers, continued to be carried out for years after a deal with a consortium to build the jail collapsed in 2009.

However, a breakdown of expenditure on the lands, obtained under FoI, reveals all of those works have now ceased.

Some €1,000 per week was spent last year, all on security patrols, which has increased the cost to date of the site to €51 million for associated costs.

The figures also reveal 2016 was the last year there was any expenditure on works at the site. Plans to build the prison there have been abandoned and the bulk of the site has now been offered to the State’s new house building body, the Land Development Agency.

Mr Scully received a letter from the Chief State Solicitors Office on behalf of Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan last week indicating that they will take, “whatever steps necessary to protest the Minister’s necessary, including the immediate issuing of legal proceedings.”

The letter, dated June 7 of this year states, “It has been brought to our attention that you continue to graze cattle on the Minister’s lands without permission.

“Accordingly we are now giving you seven days’ notice from the date hereof in which to permanently vacate and remove all livestock from the said lands.

“Further please note……we have instructions…including the immediate issuing of legal proceedings without further notice to you and where legal proceedings are initiated this letter will be used at the hearing of any such to fix you with the costs thereof. We await hearing from you.”

The letter was signed by Maria Browne, the chief state solicitor.

Mr Scully who admits he placed the animals which include cattle and horses without liaising with the Department of Justice said the land had been left idle for so long that, “what harm could be done by the animals grazing down the grass as the land has been idle for 15 years.

“I will see what happens over the next few days from the chief solicitor’s office. I would dispute any comment made that there are weekly patrols around the site as there haven’t been any in a long time.”

In a statement the Department of Justice said: “This matter is subject to legal proceedings and as such, no further comment will be made pending the resolution of same.

The news of the planned prison in 2005, came as a bombshell to people living in the area, who knew nothing about it.

In a letter to their neighbours, the Lynams described how they had been approached by Government representatives a few weeks ago to sell the land which had not been on the market.

The couple said the "offer was very substantial" and after serious thought, they decided to sell. The Department of Justice said it had reviewed more than 30 possible sites but had given priority to finding a site within eight kilometres of the M50 motorway.

The prison was to be built through a public-private partnership in which the State planned to pay annual instalments to a private company. The prison was to include a new male prison, a female prison and facilities for around 1,000 prison staff. 

The Mental Hospital in Dundrum was also to be moved to the new site.

Online Editors