Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said she has great faith in the management at Oberstown youth detention campus despite four teenage boys bringing legal challenges over being kept in solitary confinement following at riot at the site.
A fourth boy lodged his High Court challenge yesterday. The teen, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, claims that since a blaze broke out at the campus last month, he had been confined to a room, given basic food, and refused access to others.
He also claims his access to recreation, education, reading materials, and family visits were withheld.
He further said he was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Oberstown’s own regulations for dealing with children. Counsel Micheal O’Higgins said the conditions of the boy’s detention were relaxed after the three other children complained to court last week.
Speaking in Cork where she was visiting a number of youth projects, Ms Zappone said: “ I do have faith in the [Oberstown] management, very much so”.
She said the “crux of the issue” at the centre was “getting the balance right between security and care”.
She said the detention of children in their rooms was a “matter of great concern to me and to the chair [of Oberstown] too”.
“It prompted and encouraged the announcement of our review of operations [at Oberstown] and especially from my perspective, a review where young people have a voice,” she said.
The review comes after a riot at the facility in which eight juveniles managed to get on to the roof of the building where they staged a protest on the day its staff were involved in industrial action. They also trashed rooms in its Trinity House building and broke windows. One staff member suffered serious facial injuries.
Three of the young people involved in the riot took a court challenge last week claiming they were strip searched by gardaí and had been held in solitary confinement since the incident — claims rejected by the State.
Later this week, Ms Zappone will meet Public Expenditure and Reform Minister, Paschal Donohoe, to discuss the upcoming budget and the “importance of getting more money for projects for young people”.
Yesterday, Ms Zappone visited the Foyer in Blackpool, Cork, a residential project set up by Cork City Council to help people aged 18-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It is aimed at moving people into independent living within 18-24 months. It also offers a training programme for low-skill employment, project workers, supports to help find work, and Fetac training in IT and social media.
Ms Zappone also visited the Youth and Community Centre in Knocknaheeny, Churchfield’s Boxing Centre of Excellence, and the Meitheal Mara Boat Building project at French’s Quay.
The department gives up to €2.4m in funding to such schemes. Today she is due to visit the Cork Training Centre in Bishopstown where a showcase will be held by the Cork Education and Training Board.
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