Warning over 'huge' cost of excavating prison site

Back to that story about the over-priced land purchased to build a new prison in North County Dublin. Frank McDonald writing in today’s Irish Times notes:

The 150-acre site in north Co Dublin selected for a new prison complex to replace Mountjoy could cost millions more to excavate than the €30 million paid for it, according to leading archaeological experts.

Ten days ago the High Court granted leave to objectors to commission their own geo-physical survey of the site. If this confirms what is already known from aerial photography, an archaeological excavation “would cost an absolute fortune”, one expert said.

Dr Mark Clinton, who headed a similar excavation of the Carrickmines Castle site in south Co Dublin, said the Thornton Hall site was part of a known archaeological landscape extending back to prehistoric times and “can’t be isolated from it like an asteroid floating in outer space”.

He said the archaeological excavation at Carrickmines involved a core area of three to four acres. The cost came to €6.5 million by the time it came to an end in 2003.

John Maas, an expert in analysing aerial photographs, said the much more extensive Thornton Hall site contained “layer upon layer of archaeology from continuous habitation, probably dating back to around 7,000 BC” and the State had “a duty under law to excavate it”.

And McDowell’s thinking on this issue?

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell is on record as saying that he would not be put off building a prison by any “guff about fairy forts or architecture”.

McDowell is a dangerous man with regard to the heritage of the Irish nation. Do you agree?