Child detention centre plans to be redrawn, not cut

 

THE BUILDING of a new detention centre for children has not been postponed but is being redrawn because the cost was too high, the Government has said.

Both the Children’s Rights Alliance and Social Care Ireland have expressed concern at media reports that the proposed detention centre in Oberstown, north Co Dublin, might not go ahead.

It followed a response from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to a Dáil question in December that it was “not unfortunately possible to include the Oberstown project in the recent list of projects covered by the Government capital investment framework”.

Responsibility for building the detention centre has now passed to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Currently 45 teenagers, aged 16 and 17, are detained in St Patrick’s Institution, Dublin for young offenders which is regarded as an adult prison.

The Government has acknowledged they should not be detained in such an environment.

A proposal to stop sending children to St Patrick’s was included in the programme for government, but a proposal first brought in 2008 to build a children’s detention centre at Oberstown for 157 boys and 10 girls, was not included in the capital expenditure programme in November.

A spokeswoman for Minster for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said this was because the original projected cost was set before the economic downturn and the €90 million price-tag was “inflated given all that has happened” in the economy since.

Instead, a brief with a €65 million price tag is being drawn up. After the design process is completed, it will go out to tender.

However, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has not signed off on the project yet.

“It is a top political priority of the Minister for Children and she is in continuous discussion with Minister Howlin and Minister Shatter about this,” the spokeswoman said.

Both the Children’s Rights Alliance and Social Care Ireland have described the continuing delay in building the detention centre as a false economy as both claim St Patrick’s can become a “crime school” which sets some inmates on the road to criminality.