Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte says there needs to be a significant reorganisation of the Oberstown youth detention facility to make it fit for purpose. Her comments follow more violent incidents at the centre that resulted in staff injuries.
Deputy Rabbitte explained, “The situation at Oberstown has been out of control for some time, with a series of violent incidents, fires and break-outs recorded over the last number of months. Despite Minister Zappone’s assertions that the facility is fit for purpose, it is blatantly obvious that this is not the case. In the last week alone, two staff members were taken to hospital after violence flared once again, and yesterday evening two youths escaped onto the roof and had to be talked down.
“These violent events are becoming weekly occurrences and it is simply not sustainable. In some cases Garda units and the Fire Service have had to be called to the facility to deal with serious incidents. This cannot continue.
“There needs to be a complete reorganisation of the units within the centre to ensure that the children on remand are kept separate from those that are serving sentences. Section 88(8) of Children Act 2001 (as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2006) provides that remanded children shall be kept separate from sentenced children only “as far as practicable” and where it is in the “interests” of the child. However, this is not what is happening in Oberstown.
“The fact that all of the youths are housed together has led to increased tensions among the residents, which is resulting in this aggressive and violent behaviour. The design of the centre must be reassessed in light of these ongoing incidents.
“An expert review on Oberstown, which was commissioned in September, is due to report next month. While I look forward to reading the recommendations I would like a guarantee from Minister Zappone that they will be acted on without delay. The current violence cannot be allowed to continue, it is time for action to be taken”.