Labour Party Finance Spokesperson Deputy Joan Burton last night (Tues. March 30) expressed astonishment at the Government’s reply to her when she raised in the Dáil the issue of the proposed Probation & Welfare Service offices at the old AIB bank premises on Main Street, Blanchardstown.

DeputyBurton said it was obvious that the Minister for Justice felt he had money to burn when he advised her that the total cost of the probation offices in the old AIB bank premises in Blanchardstown, Main Street, is now set to cost at least €2.9 million, before the building- now lying unoccupied for two years- can be brought into use.

In the wake of two packed local public meetings, the Minister for Justice has now confirmed that the project is ‘on hold’ while the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform requests the Office of Public Works to examine alternative options in the Blanchardstown area.

However, the Minister gave no commitment to move the offices to the town centre complex, while re-stating that “there is considerable urgency attaching to the development of a probation and welfare center in the Blanchardstown area”.

Deputy Burton said that she was astonished by the Minister’s reply and that if the development of the probation offices was so urgent, how come the chosen location had been left idle for two years with no evidence of any feasibility study, as to the best location for the premises.

“The Minister is now saying the the development is ‘on hold’. The Minister needs to clarify if this is a pre-election gimmick or a genuine attempt to rectify the lack of serious examination that has marked this whole debacle”

Speaking to the Dáil, Deputy Burton said: “This move was undertaken without any consultation with local people or, indeed, local politicians. Indeed, it is not known what type of consultation process took place in OPW prior to the acquisition as to whether or not this was the best site, and the best value for money”.

“Other public institutions, FÁS, Citizen’s Information, Social Welfare are all occupying office premises on the Blanchardstown Town Centre complex, which is now the business and shopping heart of Dublin 15.

“At meetings with local residents, the probation and welfare services representatives indicated that they wanted a site in the central business and commercial district of Dublin 15, but seemed to be unaware that that is now the Town Centre complex.

“The question, therefore, arises; if the probation and welfare service are anxious to have a successful service in Blanchardstown, providing some degree of anonymity for their clients, why not follow the example of FÁS, Social Welfare etc. and locate to purpose built office accommodation on the Town Centre site”.

“This is likely to be a far more economical proposition as well as in addition to the 1 million spent on purchasing the AIB building, it has emerged that the project is going to cost something like a further 1.5 million to in refurbishment costs, such as knocking down the back of the building in order to create 12 car park spaces.
I want to ask the Minister if any value for money criteria applied to this project and if any feasibility studies were carried out in relation to the suitability of the site and more economic alternatives”.