Justice officials to be quizzed over Thornton Hall purchase

The Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will discuss the recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General into the controversial purchase of Thornton Hall in north Dublin by the Irish Prison Service at a hearing on Thursday 26 October.

The secretary general of the Department of Justice, Sean Aylward, and senior officials from the Irish Prison Service and the Office of Public Works, will also be called to explain why a landowner was paid €30m for the 150-acre site where Moutjoy jail and the Central Mental Hospital are to be re-located.

In his annual report for 2005, published in September last, the Comptroller and Auditor General, John Purcell, said that the price paid was twice the market value of the land and that the sale process was badly managed by public officials.

A Village investigation found that the price was as much as eight times that paid for similar sites within the same distance from the city in recent years.

Therese McDonnell, spokesperson for the Rolestown St Margarets Action Group which is campaigning against the proposed development, has asked the PAC for permission to address the hearings.

"We want to show how unsuited this site, which has no adequate road access or other services, is for a major prison development," Therese McDonnell said.

On Tuesday 17 October the Department of Justice said that it had realised some €29m from the sale of Shanganagh House, the former detention centre in Co Wicklow, and that the proceeds would pay for the Thornton Hall site.

Frank Connolly