Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Farmers 'living in fear' of young offenders

Oberstown detention facility
Oberstown detention facility

Farmers in north Co Dublin are "living in fear" following a spate of incidents at the State's youth detention centre at Oberstown.

In recent weeks inmates have caused over €2m of damage and five escaped for six hours, during which the garda helicopter and tracker dogs were used to track down the escapees.

"Families were told to lock themselves in their homes, and close all the windows," said local farmer and food processor Michael Hoey. "It's only a matter of time before lads out cutting cabbages or counting sheep get caught up in this."

Local residents met last week to air their fears and demand prison-warden staff to be introduced to the facility to control the youths.

"Since they shut down St Pat's, there's a lot of serious crime fellas have been moved to Oberstown. These guys spend all day working out in the gym, so even a fit young farmer would be no match for them," said Mr Hoey.

Residents in the rural area are also worried about the inmates' visitors scoping out their homes as they come and go.

"There's a lot of older people living on their own, and the next time these young lads escape they will target a getaway car or a jeep," said local cereal farmer, Cyril Sheridan.

There were over 100 violent incidents reported at the centre last year, resulting in over 3,000 sick days for the 65 staff.

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During the strike action by Oberstown staff in recent weeks a member of staff was assaulted by up to eight teens and suffered a broken nose and serious lacerations to his face.

The youths secured lock-up keys, before taking to the roof of the facility and setting fire to it, causing millions of euro worth of damage. Eleven units of the Dublin Fire Brigade were required to deal with the blaze, with the stand-off only ending some 10 hours later. The Garda Public Order Unit as well as armed officers were also called to the Lusk facility during the stand-off.

"This unit has only been fully open since Christmas, and we've already had a litany of incidents. Something needs to change before it's too late," said local nursery owner Val Farrell.

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