THERE are no plans to redevelop Cork’s old prison site on Rathmore Road, which has lain idle for six years, an Oireachtas committee has been told.
In recent days, the Public Accounts Committee was told by Irish Prison Service director general Caron McCaffrey that demolishing the existing building would cost “several million euro”.
“It remains decommissioned but obviously it is a site that could potentially be used in the future by the Prison Service,” she said.
The prison closed in 2016 following the construction of new prison facilities on a site opposite and it has remained vacant since.
Ms McCaffrey said there were some costs involved in the State’s ownership of the site but they were limited.
“Our fire alarm system obviously would still be active because we would have concerns around the risk,” Ms McCaffrey said. “The maintenance would be very small because we are not maintaining it for future use.”
When asked if there have been discussions about what could be done with the site, she said some suggestions had been put forward by local politicians but any potential redevelopment would be some time away.
“I know the governor of the prison has had some conversations with local deputies. I certainly believe there might be potential for future accommodation or step-down facilities to be developed on that site. That is certainly into the future.
“I know the governor in Cork Prison has had some approaches from some local deputies who might have some ideas or suggestions in that area,” she said.
“Any potential future that could be realised from the site would necessitate the demolition of the existing building. As I said, that would cost millions of euro. That is not in our capital strategy at the moment,” she continued.
The future of the old prison site was raised by Cork North Central Fine Gael TD Colm Burke.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Burke said while he accepts demolishing the building may well be a costly undertaking, a decision on the site should be taken nonetheless.
“We shouldn’t be allowing buildings like this to fall into disrepair. Either we start trying to find another use for it or we demolish it,” he said.
“I accept fully what has been said in that it is probably extremely costly to do anything with it now but let’s at least make some decision on it.
“I think let’s at least identify what could be done with it, even if it’s a five-year plan, but not leave it sit there and fall into total disrepair and then we’re finding it’s costing huge money afterwards trying to do something with it.”
Last year Labour councillor John Maher submitted a motion to Cork City Council calling for the justice department to sell the site of the old prison for €1 to enable the local authority to redevelop it.
Mr Maher voiced his frustration at the lack of action on the site.
“It is very disappointing to hear that there are no plans to utilise the former prison despite my motion calling on city council to liaise with Government officials and the department to ensure social and affordable housing is built with a community hub for arts and creativity as well as a place to respect the history of the building,” he said.
“We are in the biggest housing crisis in our history, desperately seeking land to build on and yet we are still met with stonewalling by the powers that be.”