Oberstown staff unions and management may resume talks

Mooted talks follow chaotic scenes when inmates escaped while staff were picketing

 Residents at the Oberstown Detention Campus in Dublin   climbed onto the roof of one of the buildings during a staff work stoppage. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Residents at the Oberstown Detention Campus in Dublin climbed onto the roof of one of the buildings during a staff work stoppage. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

There are “positive signals” that talks will resume between staff and management at the Oberstown youth detention centre following chaotic scenes during Monday’s strike.

A handful of the centre’s 38 inmates managed to escape from confinement in their rooms while workers were picketing outside the facility, and gained access to the roof where a fire was started.

Significant damage was caused to one of the detention units during the disturbances and six units of Dublin Fire Brigade were called out to deal with the blaze. The Garda Emergency Response Unit was required to coax the teenagers down from the roof.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone came under pressure yesterday from the Irish Penal Reform Trust and members of the opposition to personally intervene in the long-running industrial relations dispute. Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan said a “hands-off” approach “isn’t good enough”.

Staff who are members of the Impact and Siptu trade unions are due to take part in three further work stoppages in September.

A spokesman for Impact said the strike notice remains in place but, speaking to The Irish Times, a Siptu official said there is hope that talks will resume shortly. The two unions are expected to release a joint statement providing an update on the process later today.

Transition process

“Yes, it is true [that] over the course of the last couple of years there have been some difficulties that have emerged but those, I think, are being looked after. I do believe that [Oberstown] is fit for purpose,” she said.

Meanwhile, a Children’s Court judge was told she could not send a teenager to Oberstown yesterday because the facility was “full”.

The 16-year-old appeared before a sitting after being charged with criminal damage to a chair in his north inner city Dublin home, but Judge Marie Keane ordered that the youth be remanded in custody as she was informed there were “no beds today” at the detention centre.