YOUTH offenders at a notorious adult prison will be sent to a revamped national children's detention centre from next summer.
As construction work to overhaul the Oberstown campus in Lusk, north Dublin, began yesterday, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed the timeline for the long-awaited state commitment to get children out of adult facilities.
"The objective of ending the detention of children in adult prison facilities has been recognised by successive administrations since at least the 1980s," Ms Fitzgerald said.
"There have been numerous attempts over the years to progress this project but this Government has, at a time of major constraint for the public finances, committed the resources needed to resolve this issue once and for all," she said.
In a move the Children's Rights Alliance described as "a major step forward for vulnerable children", the minister confirmed that the transfer of 17-year-old boys from St Patrick's Institution will be given priority.
She said three new residential units will be completed in the third quarter of 2014, meaning those in the Victorian prison could be re-housed at Oberstown as soon as July, August or September next year.
Three remaining residential units will be delivered by the third quarter of 2015.
The construction work will also include education, recreation, security and other ancillary facilities.
As the children's minister turned the sod at the site, she announced that a construction contract had been awarded to BAM Building Ltd to the value of €56.4m.
Children's Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said the practice of holding boys at St Patrick's had been "a serious blot on Ireland's human rights record".