Children handcuffed and pepper sprayed by gardaí at Cork special care unit

Hiqa inspectors found inadequate governance by child and family agency Tusla

Children were handcuffed and pepper sprayed by gardaí during violent incidents at a special care unit run by the child and family agency Tusla in Cork.

Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) visited Gleann Alainn, located in the grounds of a psychiatric hospital, on two days in July. Two children were living in the centre, which accommodates girls aged between 11 and 17.

The watchdog, which published five reports on special care units on Wednesday, noted “a large number of significant events” had taken place from January to June this year at the centre, including “incidents of violence and aggression”.

The report said "inspectors found that An Garda Síochána had been called by members of the staff team to manage children's behaviour which resulted in children being pepper sprayed and or handcuffed".



There was a “relaxed and calm” atmosphere and “light-hearted and warm interactions” between children and staff when inspectors visited. But they found Tusla’s governance arrangements were inadequate.

Children are placed in a special care unit by a court when their behaviour poses a risk of harm to their life, health, safety or welfare. The Cork unit admits children at risk of self-harm and suicide.

Tusla said Gleann Alainn would cease to operate as a special care unit from December 31st. It will be repurposed as a residential centre.