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Strike threats at Oberstown after female detainee moved into new mixed-gender unit

Staff have flagged their opposition to the move.

Image: RollingNews.ie

STAFF AT THE Oberstown Detention Facility have threatened industrial action after a young female detainee was moved into a new mixed-gender unit.

The child detainee was moved into the new unit in recent weeks at a time when staff shortages at the facility, based in Lusk, north Dublin, are worsening, according to well-placed sources.

The union Fórsa, which represents many of the workers at Oberstown, said it has informed management of the threat of industrial action as a result of this move. 

Fórsa has advocated for the continued segregation of male and female detainees at the campus.  It accused the facility of acting unilaterally to establish the unit despite “longstanding resistance”. 

A statement seen by TheJournal.ie, sent to management this morning, reads: “Fórsa has called on the employer to immediately disestablish the mixed-gender unit with immediate effect and engage with the union to resolve this matter of trade dispute. 

“In the context that unit-five remains a mixed unit, Fórsa will be moving to engage our members on this matter and intends to issue a formal ballot in contemplation of industrial action for the furtherance of our dispute.”

It is understood residential care workers in Oberstown have flagged their opposition to the mixed-gender units with management on numerous occasions. Social care workers, who act as underage prison wardens, are fearful that one of the detainees may seek to take exploit the fact that there is a female in this unit.

They are also aware that a number of detainees at the institution have been violent or made threats of violence against young women.  Separately, staff at Oberstown have repeatedly called for additional personnel to be brought on board to deal with certain, high-risk detainees.  

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In May of this year, gardaí were called to the centre after a number of residents locked themselves in the kitchen area and threatened staff with boiling water.  In another incident, a high-profile detainee (the murderer of 14-year-old Ana Kriegel known as Boy A) was set upon in a planned attack. 

A spokesperson for Oberstown said: “Oberstown does not comment on operational matters. “The objective of Oberstown is to provide young people sent to us by the courts with care, education and development to address and change offending behaviour, so that they can return and contribute positively to their families and communities.  

“At all times the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone on the Oberstown campus – young people and staff – is the number one priority.  

“The Board and management of Oberstown continue to work to ensure that all practices on the campus are in line with national and international standards to achieve the best possible care for young people in our care.”  

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