Fire after riot at Oberstown Youth Detention Centre

Minister insists Oberstown is fit for purpose after fire breaks out on roof

Staff at the detention centre – the only young offenders’ institution in Ireland – went on strike for eight hours yesterday in a dispute over what they said were poor safety measures and increasing assaults on the campus.

Six fire engines were used as rescue workers battled the flames, said the Dublin Fire Brigade.

The Garda helicopter was dispatched after reports emerged that at least five, and as many as 10, residents of Oberstown Children Detention Campus in north Dublin gained access to the roof.

The residents had been confined to their rooms as staff members engaged in a work stoppage over safety concerns.

Staff – after complaining about attacks, injuries and fear for their lives – took part in planned industrial action yesterday from 8am to 4pm.

Further work stoppages are due to take place on September 5th, 12th and 19th.

Tom Hoare, an official with the IMPACT trade union, said: “While there has been consistent efforts to resolve this dispute, the staff are still facing the daily risk of assault and injury”.

“The number of assaults on staff has continued to grow since the expansion of Oberstown to facilitate the transfer of offenders from the prison service”.

“The result is a daily risk of serious assault, which leaves numerous staff literally in fear of their lives as they leave for work each day”, he added.

The unions say there were more than 100 violent incidents in the centre previous year, nearly half of which were classed as critical.

Meanwhile, SIPTU and IMPACT trade unions said the new expanded campus is badly created to deal with vulnerable young people and violent offenders.

“On the 21 August 2016 an agreement was reached between management and unions on a framework to address these issues”.

Attempts to resolve the dispute at the Work Relations Commission have so far proved unsuccessful.

“That shows there is a significant reduction in the number of assaults and incidents involving staff and we have done that because we have trained people, we have put procedures in place and we are looking to manage people in a very different way”.

“I do understand the staff have safety concerns”.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone says she’s disappointed that “vulnerable young people will be impacted by the action”.

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