SEVENTY extra spaces are to be provided at the Dóchas women's prison despite government plans to close down the entire Mountjoy complex.
The Sunday Tribune has learned that the extra capacity will be part of a major refurbishment project taking place at a €28m site that was originally bought by the Office of Public Works.
The site, a former cash and carry premises, was purchased at the height of the boom as part of government plans for a redevelopment of the entire Mountjoy site.
The Irish Prison Service (IPS) confirmed the site had been transferred to it and would be used to help make extra space for female prisoners.
Dóchas has a design capacity for 85 women but frequently houses in excess of 130.
It was to be demolished entirely and rebuilt on a greenfield site at Thornton Hall as part of Department of Justice plans for a new super-prison.
The IPS declined to say how much the cost of the new Dochas project would be as a tender competition has just been launched.
Labour TD Joe Costello said the entire redevelopment of the Mountjoy site had been handled in a "chaotic fashion".
"Thornton Hall was supposed to be on stream by now, with this site set aside for redevelopment. It was a very expensive purchase at the time – it would not be worth a third of what was paid," he said.
"The whole project was organised in a very chaotic fashion. They paid over the odds for the land at Thornton and over the odds for this site. There was a lot of bluster and very little logic involved.
"The government is going to have to have a major rethink of their policy when it comes to the Mountjoy site. We have the prisons bursting at the seams and also nearby hospitals, which could also put this site to good use."
The IPS said that aside from the increased capacity for women prisoners, the redevelopment would also be used to accommodate staff while on business in Dublin.
It said the plan for Dóchas was not at odds with its proposals for Thornton Hall.
A statement said: "The need to modernise the prison estate and replace Mountjoy Prison has been well-documented... the prison development at Thornton Hall remains a cornerstone of our prison modernisation programme."
It said the government had approved the "procurement" for phase one of Thornton Hall, which would see 400 cells built with a capacity of 700 prisoners.
A contract for an access road to serve the new prison was awarded in July and construction work on that is already underway.