Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Children Anne Rabbitte has sought an explanation from the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone regarding serious security concerns at Oberstown Youth Detention Centre. Deputy Rabbitte recently raised the issue with Minister Zappone on the floor of the Dáil.
“The Minister’s response to the work stoppage this week by staff has been slapdash and inadequate. It’s astonishing that the Minister has stated there is no basis for industrial action. This is despite the fact that the dedicated and hard working staff have genuine fears for their safety, and those of the children in their care.
“Staff have been reporting for months now that they are massively overburdened and simply do not have time to build personal relationships of trust with the children in their care. There have been a number of very violent incidents in the last year that have left both staff and children traumatised.
“It’s becoming increasingly obvious that not enough was done to ensure that the Oberstown facility was fully operational and staff were properly trained prior to the intake of 17 years olds from St Patrick’s and Wheatfield last year.
“Last night was a typical case in point, wherein a detainee escaped and the facility was put on lock down. Last summer similar major security concerns arose following the escape of three young detainees. This brought issues to light regarding insufficient security training and insufficient resources. Little has been done since to rectify this growing problem.
“Due to management inaction on new procedures, many staff at Oberstown feel that the centre is no longer being based on a childcare model but has become a containment facility. This is unacceptable.
“The Minister’s approach to dealing with staff concerns so far has been worrying. I urge the Minster to initiate a comprehensive investigation of safety issues at the facility.”