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Calls for alternatives to the imprisonment of children in St Patrick's: Ombudsman, TDs, Senators

21st November 2011

The Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, has reiterated her call for the cessation of incarcerating children in St Patrick’s adult prison, calling on the Ministers for Justice and Children to develop an interim arrangement for these children until the capital funding for the National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown becomes available, adding that creative solutions must be found to transition the children from St Patrick’s Institution as soon as possible.

The Ombudsman's statement followed an Oireachtas All-Party Penal Reform Group seminar, co-hosted by IPRT and Senator Ivana Bacik, on the detention of children in St Patrick's Institution and the need for reform. Emily Logan was a speaker at the seminar, along with Professor Harry Kennedy of the Central Mental Hospital.

Emily Logan spoke on a number of significant projects in recent years undertaken by Ombudsman for Children's office to highlight the experiences of the children who are detained in St. Patrick's.

Prof Kennedy, who with his colleagues from the Central Mental Hospital has initiated ground-breaking work in recent months within St. Patrick's, outlined the emerging evidence from his team's assessment of the boys detained there with respect to their mental health and drug use. 

Following the seminar, a number of TDs brought up the issues in a Dáil debate 'Review of Serious Incidents including Deaths of Children in Care: Statements' on 17th Nov, 2011, including Maureen O'Sullivan TD and Simon Harris TD. Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, responded:

“…In response to Deputy Harris’s point on St. Patrick’s Institution, I will ask my officials to examine the issue. I am concerned that 16 and 17 year old children remain in the institution. While I do not have budgetary provision for moving the young people in question elsewhere, the Government remains committed to delivering such a change in its lifetime. I am discussing this matter with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, who understands its seriousness and the need for decisions to be taken.”

A number of media channels reported on the Ombudsman's calls and the issues surrounding the continuing imprisonment of children in Ireland - please see below.

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