Thursday, 19 June 1975
Dáil Eireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £5,291,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1975, for expenses in connection with prisons, including centres of detention for juveniles; for the maintenance of prisoners confined in District Mental Hospitals; and for welfare services.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: I regret I do not have that information. I have just general figures about the number of prisoners in the prisons and I would  be happy to supply these to the House. I will obtain the additional information sought by the Deputy.
Mr. Colley: Would the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, who is doing his best in the place of the Minister for Justice, agree that on the occasion of the passing of a very considerable sum of money for the Estimate of the Minister for Justice that Minister should be here rather than opening a factory, probably in his constituency?
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: I understand it is not in his constituency. The Minister for Justice was in the difficulty that this engagement had been made by him some considerable time ago. Ministers have to enter into such commitments——
Mr. O'Malley: I should like to inquire from the Minister what the position is in regard to the prisons being planned. Has the building of a new high security prison on the farm at Portlaoise prison started? If not when is it proposed to start?
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: I understand that the planning of a new high security unit and of two new juvenile detention centres, one in Dublin and one in Cork, are proceeding. Other major projects which will proceed in 1975 include the modernisation of Mountjoy and Cork. It is hoped to complete this during the year and new officers' quarters at Mountjoy.
Mr. O'Malley: The Minister should realise that £1 million or more of public money is being expended either by the Department of Justice or the Department of Defence or both jointly on this project—I would regard it as a foolish one because I think it is the wrong place to build any prison—and this House can be given no information because the Minister for Justice is opening a factory; the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs does not know anything about it, and the Minister for Defence is not here.
Mr. O'Malley: When the new prison at Portlaoise is ready and the new prison at the Curragh is completed, is it proposed to repeal the Prisons Act, 1972, as amended, to take all other civilian prisoners out of military custody?
Mr. O'Malley: The Minister, of course, will recall that at the passage  of that Act in 1972, he was extraordinarily vocal about the iniquities of that Act and how improper it was to have such a system in a parliamentary democracy.
Mr. O'Malley: It arose, as Deputy Cunningham says, in 1972. No doubt there has been a change in the attitude to parliamentary democracy in this country since then. I would like to refer the Minister to the question of the situation that currently exists at Limerick Prison, which is highly unsatisfactory from everyone's point of view. There are two prisoners being detained in Limerick Prison at the moment, which necessitates very strict conditions in the prison and which necessitates the use of a very large number of gardaí on duty inside and outside that prison. I would ask the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to request the Minister for Justice to see if it would be possible to have the two prisoners in question removed from Limerick Prison, which was never a high security prison in any sense of the word, in order that Limerick Prison and the ordinary prisoners there might revert to the more normal way of life which existed there up to a year or so ago. It would also relieve the gardaí in Limerick city from the necessity of providing about 50 men on guard duty at that prison to the exclusion of all other work at a time when crime in Limerick city, as in so many other parts of the country, is rising at an alarming rate. Could the Minister give me an assurance that the two prisoners in question will be removed to a more suitable institution in the immediate future?
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: I can give the Deputy no such assurance, but I can convey the point he makes to the Minister. The Deputy will appreciate perhaps better than most Deputies that wherever prisoners of this type are to be held, a certain amount of inconvenience  will result both inside and outside the prison, and that there is no clear way of obviating that.
Mr. O'Malley: I appreciate that inconvenience, as the Minister described it, will certainly be caused in any prison where prisoners of this type are being held, but what I am endeavouring to suggest is that Limerick Prison is particularly unsuitable for that type of prisoner. It is a prison for people serving short-term sentences. There was never any great security or any need for any great security there. The whole atmosphere of the prison is changed and the people who suffer in particular by that are the ordinary, non-subversive prisoners. As well as that, it has had a most serious effect on the whole policing situation in Limerick city by virtue of the fact that 50 or possibly more gardaí are full time engaged in the protection of this prison now.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: I shall convey the Deputy's representations to the Minister, but I think wherever prisoners of this type are held it is likely that local representatives will urge that they be transferred somewhere else. I am sure if the Minister could have found some more suitable place for these prisoners he would have put them there.
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