Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the total cost to date of the Thornton Hall project; the status of this project; the purpose of this project; her future plans for this site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15836/17]
76. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the total cost of the lands at the Thornton Hall project; the current value of the site and lands at the time of purchase; the value of these lands; the meetings that were held between her Department and the vendors prior to the sale; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15837/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 76 together.
By way of extensive background information on the Thornton Hall project, how it arose, the related prison accommodation issues and other relevant factors I would refer the Deputy to the Comptroller & Auditor General Annual Report 2005 which addressed this issue and to the subsequent examination by the Public Accounts Committee in October 2006. The Comptroller & Auditor General also addressed this issue as part of the Report on the Accounts of the Public Services in 2014 (No. 9 Development of Prison Accommodation in Dublin). The Public Accounts Committee subsequently examined this issue in November 2015.
The Thornton Hall site comprises 156 acres and was purchased for a proposed prison development to replace Mountjoy Prison campus. Selection of the site began with advertisements in the national newspapers and over 30 potential sites were evaluated by a selection committee. Thornton was selected as the least costly of the sites which met the relevant criteria. Full details of the assessment process have been made public and are detailed in the Comptroller and Auditor General's Annual Report 2005. Negotiations with the prospective vendors were conducted on behalf of the State by CBRE with some involvement of officials of the Prison Service.
For reasons which are outlined in detail in the reports cited above, the Thornton project did not proceed. A total of €50.6 million has been spent on the Thornton site to date and this includes the site preparations, surveys, building of an access road, maintenance, legal and security fees and so on. The biggest single expenditure was the initial purchase of the land at Thornton for €29,900,000 in 2005 which was offset by the sale of surplus prison lands at Shanganagh Castle for €29.6 million. For accounting purposes, the value of the 150 acre site at Thornton continues to be recorded at the cost of €29.9 million, plus investment in infrastructure and services, pending a review of its potential value and benefit to the State.
In January 2015, a Working Group was established by the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality to examine options for the future use of the Thornton Hall site. This group, comprising of officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Office of Public Works and the Irish Prison Service, was asked to review potential options for the lands and house at Thornton and make recommendations on how best to maximise the value to the State. That work is ongoing.