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After five years and €42m, work to start on new Mountjoy

CONSTRUCTION work on Ireland's first super prison at Thornton Hall will finally begin this month -- with €42m already spent on the project.

Work on an access road at the site of the 2,200 capacity prison in Swords, Co Dublin, will begin in the next fortnight.

The price per acre was substantially higher than that paid for other sites in the area in 2005 and led to considerable criticism of former Justice Minister Michael McDowell.


Work on the access road, which will begin this month, is expected to take six months.

Work will then begin on the perimeter wall of the prison.

A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said: "Tenders for the building of the perimeter wall will be published in September."

Work on the prison building is not expected to begin until next year and the target finish date is now 2015.

A developer for the main prison building has not yet been found.

According to latest figures, the bill for security alone at the Swords site currently stands at €553,000.

This is on top of another €7m that has been spent on profession fees, €2.9m on site preparation and surveys and almost €500,000 on landscaping.

An additional 8.7 acres has also been acquired at a cost of €1.3m to provide a dedicated access route to the main site, following complaints from residents about increased traffic.

As with all major projects, a comprehensive set of geological, engineering and archaeological surveys has been undertaken at the site.

The need for the facility has never been more dire as Mount-joy continues to suffer from chronic overcrowding.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern explained the access road, perimeter wall and off-site services comprise phase one of the project.

"Phase two will include the development of the main prison campus," he said.


"The new prison facility will provide accommodation for 1,400 cells with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 in a range of security settings.

"I have already acknowledged that there has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years.

"This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number in custody has increased by 429 (a rise of 11pc in overall prisoner numbers)."