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Minister says Oberstown is 'fit for purpose' after fire and violence at youth detention centre

A member of staff was injured during the disturbance.

Updated 12.53 pm

CHILDREN’S MINISTER KATHERINE Zappone is insisting that the Oberstown youth detention centre is “fit for purpose” after yesterday’s fire and disturbance that saw a number of inmates on the roof of the facility.

The Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU) was called to the scene to quell the trouble with a staff member also injured in the disturbance.

Six units of Dublin Fire Brigade battled a blaze at Oberstown overnight, after a fire broke out on the roof at around 7.50pm.

LR OBERSTOWN CENTRE 9403 Staff returned to work at the facility this morning. Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The fire was brought under control and the fire crews left the scene this morning. A spokesperson for Oberstown said it is understood that it was some of the residents who caused the fire.

The disturbance came about after staff picketed outside the centre yesterday in protest against what they say are health and safety concerns at the facility.

The youths were locked in their cells during the protest but some staff members were forced to leave the picket when trouble erupted.

Five residents then climbed onto the roof. This happened during the eight-hour work stoppage by 150 workers.

A number of residents of the centre took control of a unit earlier in the day after managing to take keys from a staff member.

A worker was injured trying to bring the situation under control but this was not the result of an assault.

As the situation escalated, one of the centre’s units was burnt down.

Gardaí were called to the scene as were the ERU. It is understood that slates were thrown at gardaí during the incident.

A spokesperson for Oberstown told TheJournal.ie that the centre is “a crime scene”.

Despite yesterday’s disturbance and a recent breakout by five of the residents, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone says the facility is fit for purpose.

“I think absolutely it is fit for purpose. I know that in relation to the design for Oberstown there was extensive consultation will all sorts of users and providers and following best practice,” she said.

Yes it is true that over the past couple of years there have been some difficulties that have emerged but I do believe that it is fit for purpose.

“These issues emerged in the context of the young people in their rooms locked up for a couple of hours knowing they were going to be locked up for a few more hours, that is the fact,” she added.

30/8/2016 Zappone Statement on Oberstown Children's Minister Katherine Zappone. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The minister also said that she visited the facility recently and that she was struck by the “positive environment”:

I was at Oberstown myself and I was really struck with the positive environment. I went to give certificates in the context of the school and the learning that’s going on and I was deeply impressed by the staff the young people and the management.

The minister said that she will be requesting a report on yesterday’s incident.

Breakout 

Earlier this month, another report was ordered after five of the teenage inmates escaped after they stole a ladder from within the facility and managed to scale its walls.

LR OBERSTANCE CENTRE 9413 Gardaí were called to the detention centre yesterday. Source: Eamonn Farrell

 

The five children were apprehended again a short time later in the fields surrounding the centre by gardaí.

After their escape, residents in the nearby homes were alerted by way of a text alert. One local resident says that the atmosphere has changed recently and that locals are more nervous about living near the centre.

“There’s elderly people there now and their doors are locked from one end of the day to the other and it’s only if carers come or that they open the doors like that. It’s worrying enough now,” they said.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy 

Read: A fire is blazing on the roof of Oberstown’s youth detention centre>

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