'Interim Plan' of Child Unit in Adult Prison goes ahead Despite Financial Crisis
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews TD, in the fourth edition of the Children’s Rights Alliance Podcast Series (published today), has again verified that it is ‘not the Government’s long term goal’ to use Thornton Hall (a new adult Irish Prison Service complex in North Co. Dublin) as anything other than ‘an interim solution’ for the detention of young offenders. This echoes the words of the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in a letter to the Alliance in March, earlier this year. The Alliance is opposed to any child under 18 being detained in Thornton Hall and believes the Government’s energies, particularly in the current financial climate, should now be put into the development of an appropriate children detention school.
Minister Andrews, in his podcast interview, discusses youth justice issues and their relevance to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), including conditions in St Patrick’s Institution. Minister Barry Andrews TD, on the subject of Thornton Hall, says: ‘Oberstown [the site of the children detention school] won’t be ready and I think we’ve come clean on that or made it clear that’s going to be the case, [..] it’s clear to me that every effort is made and will be made to ensure that those young people detained [in Thornton Hall] will be detained separately, almost as though they won’t be aware that they are in an adult prison. There will be separate entrances as I understand it. There will be a separate ethos there from the adult prison, so I’m satisfied that, to the best extent possible, the interim arrangement will be satisfactory but it’s not our long term goal whatsoever. I’m very impressed that it is a key goal for [the Department of Justice and Youth Justice Service] to have Oberstown completed in the earliest timeframe possible.’
In response Mrs Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: ‘We are delighted that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs agreed to feature in our podcast series. However, it is disappointing, particularly in the current financial climate, that the Government continues to believe that it is money well spent to build a temporary children’s unit at Thornton Hall, rather than plough all its monies and resources into the new facility on the Oberstown Campus (in Lusk). We are completely opposed to the detention of any child under 18 in the new Irish prison service complex in Thornton Hall, not least because it is contrary to the UNCRC and we fear that it will evolve into more than an ‘interim measure’. Common sense must prevail and money should not be wasted on a temporary, redundant facility within an adult complex.’
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Notes to Editor:
- In communication with the Government on this issue, the Alliance has made reference to the UN Convention and Article 3, ‘the best interests of the child’; Article 37, to ensure that children detained by the State shall be separated from adults; and Article 40, the right of every child who has infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of a child’s sense of dignity and worth, thereby promoting the child’s reintegration into society.
- The Final Report of the Expert Working Group on Children Detention Schools recommends that children and young people under 18 years be accommodated in appropriate children’s detention facilities (available at www.iyjs.ie).
- There are four Children Detention Schools: Oberstown Boys School, Oberstown Girls School, and Trinity House – which are all located on Oberstown Campus in Lusk, Co. Dublin – and Finglas Child and Adolescent Centre, which is located on Kildonan Road, Finglas, Dublin 11.
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