Lusk community living in fear following riots

by Sylvia Pownall

FARMERS in north Dublin are “living in fear” following a spate of security breaches at the State’s youth detention centre in Lusk.
Neighbours of the Oberstown campus met to air their concerns after armed gardai and six units of the fire brigade were needed to quell a riot and fire two weeks ago.
One member of staff was hospitalised after the violent incident, and it took armed gardai and six units of the fire brigade to quell the disturbance.
It’s the second serious breach of security in the space of a month – in August, five inmates armed with bats and clubs broke out of the centre, and it took six hours to track them down.
The garda helicopter and tracker dogs were used to round up the escapees – one of whom had previously been involved in a violent assault involving a broken mug at the centre.
Farmer and food processor Michael Hoey said: “People were told to lock themselves in their homes and close all the windows.
“It’s only a matter of time before lads out cutting cabbages or counting sheep get caught up in this.”
Michael, managing director of Country Crest, chaired a public meeting for people to air their concerns.
The community now wants prison warden staff to be introduced at the campus to control inmates.
He added: “There are a lot of people living on their own in this community and a lot of elderly people too, and they are feeling very vulnerable.
“Will it take someone to be badly injured or worse for something to happen?”
The young inmates were confined to their rooms during a work stoppage on the day of the riot, but some broke free and climbed on to the roof, starting a fire.
Damage estimated at €2 million was caused as a result, and staff have repeatedly raised concerns for their safety over poor security systems.
Last week, unions representing the workers agreed to defer three planned stoppages to facilitate talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.
The previous day, the facility’s board of directors held an extraordinary meeting and were briefed by campus manager Pat Bergin.
Afterwards, chairperson Prof Ursula Kilkelly issued a statement on what she described as a “difficult week” for Oberstown.
She said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to express my solidarity with the staff of Oberstown for what has been an extremely difficult few days.
“I am grateful to everyone for the exceptional service they have continued to provide during this time.”
She wished the staff member injured during the unrest “a full and speedy recovery”, adding: “Supports are being made available to staff and the young people on campus”.
Prof Kilkelly met with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, last week to discuss the fall-out from the riot.
The Minister said she was determined “we never again” have a situation where children are detained in adult prisons – and she dismissed suggestions that young offenders at Oberstown might now be transferred to UK institutions.
In 2015, a total of 100 incidents – almost half of which were described as critical – were recorded at Oberstown, which is licensed to hold 46 children.
These resulted in a total of 3,000 sick days for the centre’s 65 staff.

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