The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has today welcomed the actions taken by Ministers Frances Fitzgerald and Dr James Reilly to end the practice of committing under-18s on remand to the adult prison system. From today (Monday 30th March 2015), boys aged 17 may be committed on remand by the Courts to the national children detention school campus at Oberstown, Co. Dublin. This marks a crucial step towards removing, finally, all children from the adult prison system in Ireland.
IPRT has campaigned for the end of imprisonment of children in Ireland since the organisation was founded in 1994. The detention of children in the adult prison system has been a serious stain on Ireland’s human rights record, with St Patrick’s Institution receiving particularly damning reports over several decades. The 9 boys aged seventeen, who are currently detained on remand in St Patrick’s Institution, will remain in that prison until their cases are processed. There are 14 boys aged seventeen detained under sentence in Wheatfield Place of Detention.
Progress towards the ending of committals on remand to St Patrick’s Institution has been made possible by concrete commitments secured in 2012 by then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and current Minister for Justice and Equality, Mrs Frances Fitzgerald TD. Following 25 years of inaction by successive governments, in April 2012 Minister Fitzgerald secured €50 million towards the building of the new national children detention school facility at Oberstown, Co. Dublin.
IPRT also acknowledges action by the current Minister for Children and Youth affairs, Dr James Reilly TD, who signed the ministerial orders required to end the practice of remanding children to St Patrick’s Institution on 17th March 2015, and the Oberstown Board of Management and staff who have worked together to make this happen.
Welcoming the development, IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone said:
Ending the practice of sending children to St Patrick’s Institution was a key commitment included in the Programme for Government and today marks one of the final steps towards making that commitment a reality and ensuring that the name of St. Patrick’s Institution is finally consigned to history. While any use of detention for children should always remain a measure of last resort, today’s developments brings Ireland closer to achieving full compliance with our international human rights obligations and to giving those children who are detained a better chance to access a child-centred, welfare and education oriented detention system.
However, we should not forget that children under sentence continue to be detained at the adult prison in Wheatfield: we look forward to hearing concrete plans for the transfer of those children in the short term. It is also crucial that the increase in capacity at Oberstown is used to accommodate 17-year-old boys as intended and does not see an increase in the numbers of 16-year-olds detained on remand.
For further comment or an interview with IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone, contact: 087 181 2990
1. From Monday 30th March 2015, boys aged 17 can be remanded in custody to the national children detention school campus at Oberstown, Co. Dublin. The DCYA press release ‘Oberstown to commence taking 17 year old males remanded in custody – Minister Reilly’ is available here: http://www.dcya.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?Docid=3411&CatID=11&mn=&StartDate=1+January+2015
The relevant ministerial orders were signed by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly on 17th March 2015:
2. On Friday 27 March 2015, there were 9 boys aged 17 on remand in St Patrick’s Institution, and 14 detained under sentence at Wheatfield Place of Detention: http://www.irishprisons.ie/images/dailynumbers/27_march_2015.pdf
3. On 2nd April 2012, then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (and current Minister for Justice and Equality) Mrs Frances Fitzgerald TD announced that €50 million had been secured to progress the building ofthe new national children detention facility at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin and thereby facilitate the transfer of under-18s from the adult prison system in Ireland.
4. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort: www.iprt.ie