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.
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.
- Ombudsman for Children: 'Ministers for Justice & Children must develop new plan for children in St Patrick’s prison following Thornton Hall deferral – Logan'
- The Irish Times: 'Ombudsman calls for alternatives to the imprisonment of young offenders'
- Irish Independent: 'Mountjoy 'unsuitable' for juveniles'
- Irish Examiner: 'Fears as juvenile facility plan is shelved'
- The Irish Times: 'Scandal of children in an adult institution'