Monday 5 December 2016

Young offenders 'will be sent to UK' as detention centres fill up

Published 04/09/2016 | 07:40

A fire engine arrives at the gates of the Oberstown facility in north Co Dublin last night. Picture; Caroline Quinn
A fire engine arrives at the gates of the Oberstown facility in north Co Dublin last night. Picture; Caroline Quinn
The blaze lights up the night sky at Oberstown in north Co Dublin. Picture; Caroline Quinn
General view of Gardai at Oberstown Childcare facility. Man O War, North County Dublin. Picture; Caroline Quinn
General view of Gardai at Oberstown Childcare facility. Man O War, North County Dublin. Picture; Caroline Quinn
A riot broke out at the Oberstown centre on Monday

Young offenders due to be detained at Oberstown youth detention centre will be sent to the UK under proposals being considered by the Department of Children.

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It comes after riots and a number of incidents at the Children Detention Campus last week impacted capacity at the site.

Now, youngsters who would normally be sent to stay at the unit will be accommodated in similar detention centres in the UK under the proposals.

Provisional estimates indicate that more than €4m worth of damage was caused to the facility last Monday after a fire in one of the units. Roof tiles were also thrown from the top of a unit after a number of violent scenes.

The Office of Public Works  (OPW) are carrying out surveys of the damage with sources close to the investigation indicating the damage costs are likely to rise to €6m.

One unit was totally destroyed by the blaze at the facility as emergency services struggled to regain control of the centre.

Eight residents had managed to climb onto the roof of one of the units at the facility after an eight-hour work stoppage by staff over health and safety concerns.

Another two units were also damaged in incidents last Monday with kitchens, common rooms and a roof at the facility very badly damaged.

“The main unit the residents were in is ruined,” said a source. It was a substantial fire, so that unit is totally unusable now.

“Another two units are in bad shape too and also received significant damage.”

The damage means the capacity at the facility will be reduced while repair work is carried out.

No plan or timeframe has been put on the repair work and OPW investigations are still at a very early stage.

Some 39 detainees were in Oberstown on Monday night and officials in government are concerned that numbers could rise further.

Oberstown only has room for seven more youths. The Department of Children is now considering using centres in the UK to cope with the further strain on resources.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and her department declined to comment on last week’s incident.

“As made clear by Minister Zappone in her remarks to media on Tuesday morning, the events which unfolded at Oberstown are the subject of investigation and it would be wrong to speculate ahead of the outcome of those inquiries,” said a spokesperson.

A 16-year-old boy who appeared in court the day after the riots, after a domestic incident, avoided being sent to Oberstown because the centre was deemed to be full.

Care staff at the centre have agreed to accept an invitation to attend a meeting with Oberstown management tomorrow morning at the Workplace Relations Commission.

It means notified industrial action scheduled to take place tomorrow has now been deferred.

They will seek to address outstanding safety concerns.

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