Council to acquire castle prison in land swap

18th-century Shanganagh Castle in south Dublin to be refurbished and opened to the public

Shanganagh Castle, the former prison in Shankill, south Dublin

A former prison in Dublin is to be acquired by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council as part of a land-swap deal.

Shanganagh Castle in Shankill, which was a prison for juvenile offenders from 1969 to 2002 and is a protected structure, is to become the property of the council in exchange for 11 acres of open space it owns.

The council agreed a deal with Castlethorn Construction to exchange 11 acres on the coastal side of the Dart line for three plots of land, including the 6.3 acres containing the castle and its curtilage.

Shanganagh Castle is a two-storey over basement castellated house. Construction on it began in 1760 and was continued by neoclassical architect Sir Richard Morrison between 1805 and 1818. He was one of Ireland’s leading architects at the time and his works include Anatomy House at Trinity College Dublin, Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital in Dublin and Fota House in Co Cork.


The castle's most notable owner was Sir George Cockburn, an army general during the Napoleonic wars, who commissioned Morrison.

Golf club

The council will also acquire two plots, both of 2.3 acres, currently occupied by Woodbrook Golf Club. They are both zoned residential, with one site close to the proposed Woodbrook Dart station and the other at the Dublin Road end of the club lands. In exchange, the golf club, which has suffered from erosion, will expand into part of Castlethorn's 11 acres.

The castle and surrounding lands of 28 acres were sold by the Department of Justice after the closure of the prison in 2002.

The council purchased 21 acres for €9 million and the 6.3 acres housing the castle building and its gardens were sold to Castlethorn for €20.6 million.

The funds raised from the sale were used by then minister for justice Michael McDowell to purchase the 150-acre site at Thornton Hall in north Dublin for €29.9 million where a new prison was promised.

The council intends to restore the castle and open it to the public, but has said it is in very poor condition. It has budgeted to spend €500,000 over the next three years to secure it and carry out emergency work to prevent further deterioration. It will also pay €210,000 in VAT and stamp duty as part of the land swap.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist