The lack of a children’s detention centre outside of Dublin is to be raised in the European Court of Human Rights by Cork County Council.
Councillors unanimously backed a motion to seek the court’s views after calls to set up a detention centre in Co Cork were rejected by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
The motion was tabled by former social worker Cllr Noel Collins, who has repeatedly criticised overcrowding at the only detention centre in the country.
The department said at present there were no plans to develop a detention centre in any other part of the country.
Cllr Collins said councillors should reject the answer.
He said he had visited the Oberstown detention centre in Lusk, Co Dublin last Christmas and was “appalled” by what he saw.
He said there was serious overcrowding and frequent attacks on hard-pressed staff and as a result of what he saw he had already spoken to officials in the European Court of Human Rights.
In a letter to the council, the department said that it provides (financial) ‘support to families’ of young offenders who have to travel by bus or train to visit the facility.
Cllr Collins said it was very unfair to drag families on long journeys from Cork and Kerry to Oberstown.
He said a facility should be built in Cork, which would save families a lot of time travelling to and from Dublin and the money saved by the State in providing travelling expenses could be used to build the centre.
Commenting on the department’s refusal to build centres outside of Dublin, he said: “This doesn’t paint a bright future for young people in Ireland.”
Cllr MaryLinehan Foley also said it was very unfair on families who had to travel such long distances.
Cllr Joe Harris said that there was formerly such a facility on Spike Island, in Cork harbour which worked well as a youth detention centre.
“It used to hold courses to train young offenders to enable them reintegrate with society,” Cllr Harris said.
“It’s a disgrace and it’s inhuman (having no facility outside of Oberstown) and travelling is putting savage pressure on families,” he added.
Cllr Derry Cantry pointed out that the former Cork prison at Rathmore Road, which was closed around a year ago, would be an ideal location for a child detention centre.
Cllr Collins said he was grateful for the support he had received from council colleagues who agreed that they would make formal communication with the European Court of Human Rights on the issue.
The department said it also supports families visiting the Oberstown centre by collecting them and dropping them back to the bus or train station while on visits.
It said visiting hours had become more flexible, with weekend visits being allowed on a discretionary basis and also pointed out that a more lenient approach was taken to the duration of the visits being applied.
The department said exceptional needs payments, under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, are made to visiting relatives when they don’t have the money to pay for bus or rail travel themselves.
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