Staff at Oberstown must be able to access Gardaí in severe incidents – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has expressed concern around current practices of management at Oberstown Detention Centre.
He added that management need to show a great desire to listen to the concerns of staff.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire was speaking after Pat Bergin, Director of Services at Oberstown Detention centre, came before the Children and Youth committee this morning to answer questions regarding the current situation at the campus.
"I found Mr Bergin to be unconvincing when answering questions regarding improved safety since the incident that took place on August 29th. I am also quite surprised to learn that he is unaware of a motion of no confidence in his management, at a meeting of staff this week. The fact that staff would have taken such a step illustrates the seriousness of the situation, and it did not appear to me, that he recognized the gravity of that fact, or any clear way of resolving this lack of trust.
"The incidents of August 29th were extremely serious, and a cause for grave concern, but the concerns of staff, in relation to risk management, in relation to training, in relation to staffing, rostering and resources, have been flagged for quite some time.
"Staff have expressed their concern to me at what they believe is a heavy handed style of management, that is seeing staff risk assessments overruled regularly, and there is a great deal of fear and concern among staff now.
"Mr Bergin confirmed to me at the meeting that Gardaí have turned Gardaí away from Oberstown, having been called by staff, and that even in the most serious cases, that calls to Gardaí have to have a management sign off, regardless of the dangerous nature of the incident.
"In the context of the incident on the 29th, it illustrates that staff do require assistance when situations get out of hand, and in the context of very challenging behaviors, it is clear that staff will need Garda assistance.
"The safety of children is of paramount importance. But where the safety of staff is in jeopardy in any way, and when they feel their safety is under threat, then that puts the safety of the children under risk.
"The high proportion of children in the Centre on remand is also a significant challenge, at 86% of residents, as it means that many residents are not there for any lengthy period of time, and therefore struggle to develop a relationship with staff and other residents, causing other challenges.
"There are obviously major outstanding issues at Oberstown. Staff concerns have not been fully taken on board, and the lack of confidence and faith in management has to be addressed. We cannot have a repeat of recent serious incidents, particularly that of the 29th. I remain unsure that these concerns are fully realised or understand by management at Oberstown.”