THE HSE's national director of children's services has defended the nightly locking of doors at a high-support unit for children, saying "any reasonable parent in the country" would do the same.
Gordon Jeyes, the designate head of the new Child and Family Services Agency, was reacting to a scathing HIQA report into the high support unit at Rath na Nog in Castleblaney, Co Monaghan.
Mr Jeyes, right, claimed the decision to close a high-support unit for children had already been finalised prior to the publication of the report by the health watchdog.
He said the report's publication had merely "accelerated" the process.
Inspectors found that all external doors were locked from 9pm, even though the fire system did not allow the doors to be opened automatically in the event of smoke or fire. Four fires were lit at the centre in the six months before inspection.
In spite of external doors being locked at night, the young people continued to run away and engage in risky drink and drug abuse, as well as sexualised behaviour.
Speaking on RTE One's 'This Week' programme, Mr Jeyes said he saw no difficulty with locking the doors at night since "most reasonable parents want to have their children safe both from exit and from others entering".
"These young people were vulnerable and so on the occasions when the external doors were locked, the risk assessment was accompanied by four waking adults who were on duty through the night," he said.
"These were some of Ireland's most vulnerable young people, one step away from having their liberty taken away from them because their behaviour was a risk to themselves and others."
Mr Jeyes said he had personally "endorsed the decision" to lock the doors at night, having taken full legal and fire safety advice and said the same thing also happens in other high support areas.
He claimed staff at the unit had been given a lot of support and advice, however they had struggled with a "more challenging and vulnerable client group".
This was despite the centre being "sufficiently resourced", as the HIQA report had acknowledged.
The report last week found that inspectors who visited the unit housing 10 very disturbed children in July and August, had invoked a rarely used immediate action plan because of the risk of major harm to the residents.
They also found that gardai had to be regularly called to help staff because of the threatening behaviour of young people there.