Major fire follows protest at Oberstown detention centre

Inmates had climbed roof in protest after being locked in rooms during staff dispute

Residents at the Oberstown Detention Campus in Lusk, Co Dublin, who climbed up on to the roof of one of the buildings. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Residents at the Oberstown Detention Campus in Lusk, Co Dublin, who climbed up on to the roof of one of the buildings. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Units of the Dublin Fire Brigade were fighting a major fire at the Oberstown Children’s Detention Campus in north Dublin on Monday night.

It came after a day during which a number of protesting inmates had climbed onto a roof when staff at the centre were engaged in industrial action.

Gardaí on location to monitor the protest and the fire said no one had been injured and that there was no threat of danger to members of the public or to other inmates. The fire service, which was called to the centre at 8pm, said the fire was being brought under control.

Teenagers at the State’s only youth detention centre had earlier been locked in their rooms as staff engaged in industrial action over health and safety issues.

After some of the inmates began a protest, some staff left the picket line to help maintain order.

Trade unions Siptu and Impact said the stoppage by the staff was part of an ongoing industrial dispute in response to the increase in attacks on staff at the centre in Lusk.

Staff also took part in a four-hour stoppage in May and they will engage in similar stoppages on September 5th, 12th and 19th.

Attempts to resolve the issue through talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) have so far been unsuccessful.

Some 38 young people were detained on Monday, director of the campus Pat Bergin confirmed. He said there had been “some challenges” in relation to managing the teenagers locked in their bedrooms. There had been a number of incidents across the campus and staff had come off their picket line to assist, he said. “It is quite distressing for everybody.”

Safety and care

Mr Bergin said management and the unions had to utilise the systems in place, including the WRC, to address the issues. The action was not going to lend itself to resolving the issues on an ongoing basis, he said.

“Ultimately, we need to manage the campus and make the decisions that are in the best interest of the campus and the young people and the staff going forward,” Mr Bergin said. Management and unions both wanted the same thing, which was to ensure the staff were safe and the young people were cared for appropriately.

Tom Hoare, assistant general secretary with Impact, said some progress had been made before the WRC in relation to training and equipment. But the injury and assault rate on members was such they could not continue to operate in “an unsafe working environment”.

Mr Hoare said the management regime was not responding to the risks that were already there, and he said a survey was required to “correct and adjust” and to deal with the matter. Oberstown provides 54 places for young people ordered to be remanded or committed by the courts.