Councillor Collins Brings Battle for Cork Youth Detention Centre to Europe

By Seamus Whelehan

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Councillor Noel Collins has voiced his anger over the Government’s refusal to develop a Youth Detention Centre in Cork.

The Independent Councillor is to refer the issue to the European Commission for Human Rights.

The Midleton based Cllr has made a number of pleas to Government which have been rejected, to locate a detention centre in Cork.

Mr Collins has claimed since the closure of Spike Island, the country’s custodial system for young offenders has been under severe strain.

Youngsters who should be in the care of specialist educators are being placed on continuous remand by the court. On the one hand the safety and security of the general public is being put in jeopardy. On the other the correctional treatment the young offenders need is being long fingered, he claimed.

At present there are only 200 youth detention places spread across the country’s 4 detention centres, catering for 15 to 17 year olds.

The Independent Cllr said families of young offenders were experiencing hardship having to make a 300 mile round trip to visit their sons and daughters.

He said “the Oberstown building in Lusk Co. Dublin is grossly overcrowded resultant in some violent attacks on staff members, who have repeatedly called for riot gear to deal with violent, volatile teenage inmates.”

The latest response by the department of children and youth affairs state the Oberstown Campus is “the most economic and efficient option for care and education” of young offenders.

They say the “campus support the families who must travel to visit their family member, with weekend visits being allowed on a discretionary basis.”

Mr Collins told a full sitting of Cork County Council on Monday 12 February “thousands of Euro in the State’s coffers spent on travelling expenses could be better spent in the provision of a Youth detention centre in Cork where many suitable buildings are available. “

The former social worker said Since Dáil Éireann have repeatedly given his motion the deaf ear treatment he wanted the case referred to the European department of human rights adjudication.

The councillor received the full backing of his colleges.

East Cork Municipality Chairwoman Mary Linehan Foley on backing Cllr Collins motion said “what seems to be happening, is that the Dáil think Dublin is the ball and end all and we here in Cork County are left suffering. “

Fine Gael Councillor Derry Canty said there were a number of sites in Cork County which could be renovated at little cost. He suggested the old Cork Prison and Kilworth army barracks as two possible locations.

He said “look at what could be saved on travel and expenses at the moment to carry juveniles up and down the country.”  Instead doubling the time spent on education for young offenders would help cut the numbers reoffending he claimed.

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