Government spends €70,000 on gates into empty field
ALMOST €70,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent building gates into an empty field.
The field is the proposed site of a new detention centre for children at Oberstown in north county Dublin, but it remains unclear whether the centre will ever be built.
It is the only work done on the site to date, and the gates and adjoining wall are the only structures on the field.
The Government insisted that building work had not been postponed indefinitely but was being redrawn because the €90m estimated cost was too high.
But groups including the Children's Rights Alliance and Social Care Ireland have expressed concern that the centre may never be built.
There are 45 teenagers aged 16 to 17 being detained in St Patrick's Institution in Dublin, which is regarded as an adult prison.
The Government has admitted they should not be detained in St Patrick's.
However, the Oberstown facility is not in the Government's capital investment programme between now and 2015.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs confirmed "actual works completed to date on the site are limited to the erection of gates to form a construction entrance".
A spokesman said: "The cost of this work, which was carried out in early 2011, was €68,000 including VAT.
"The cost of the gates to form a construction entrance to the site is the only construction cost to date."
However, a further €2.4m has been committed to bringing the project through the design stage -- even though there is no commitment to funding the actual capital works.
"The allocation of €2.4m was made to cover the cost of the entire design process for the project," the department spokesman said.
The Government has insisted that a facility with a €65m price tag will be designed and will go out to tender. However, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has not signed off on the construction project yet.
"I think it is scandalous it (the facility) hasn't gone ahead yet and I would like to think the gates are a sign of intent to proceed with it," Labour senator Ivana Bacik said yesterday.
Norah Gibbons, Barnardos' director of advocacy, said: "We are very disappointed that plans to build a new detention centre for teenage boys have been postponed."