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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Google Street View The Oberstown Facility

Detention centre puts children in isolation for smoking and bad language

The unannounced inspection of Oberstown also found issues with care planning, mediation management and training.

THE TREATMENT OF children in the Oberstown Children Detention Campus has been heavily criticised following an unannounced inspection of the facility.

At the centre of this is the extensive use of placing children in single separation – where they are isolated from their peers for a period of time.

The national guidelines for this practice from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs state that it is a measure that should be used, “for as short a period as possible, to give him/her an opportunity to regain self-control.”

It was found that this punishment was being used extensively – at an average rate of 6 times a day – and for punishments like smoking, swearing at their fellow detainees and being abusive towards staff.

Unannounced follow-up inspection 

This information today comes from an unannounced follow-up inspection at the Oberstown facility from Hiqa, following a previous inspection in October 2014.

The independent watchdog states that the purpose of such monitoring inspections is to “safeguard vulnerable young people living in detentions schools”.

In the report it was found that progress had been made on fixing deficits that had been found in the previous inspection, but that work was still needed in the areas of single separation, care planning, mediation management and training.

It was said that young people at the facility were not always comprehensively assessed and that care plans in place were not consistently reviewed.

While the bad seemed to outweigh the good, the campus manager, the senior management team and the board involved in implementing change were commended for their leadership.


In response to the report, the Irish Penal Reform Trust has described the situation with single separation as “extremely worrying”, with its executive director Deirdre Malone, saying, “Isolation from their peers is extremely damaging to children to young people, and must only be used after other forms of de-escalation have not worked.”

The Children’s Rights Alliance has also expressed concern at the action in the facility, saying that it, “should never be used as a form of punishment or discipline”.

Oberstown made headlines earlier this year when four teenagers managed to escape from the detention facility. 

Read: Britain’s youngest terrorist: 15-year-old boy sentenced over plans to ‘run a cop over’

Also: Outrage after 14-year-old taken from school in handcuffs – for bringing a clock to class

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