Thursday 20 October 2016

Oberstown staff 'fear being taken hostage, killed'

Gardai at Oberstown detention facility where a riot and blaze Picture: Caroline Quinn
Gardai at Oberstown detention facility where a riot and blaze Picture: Caroline Quinn

Staff at the troubled Oberstown youth detention facility are working under threat of being held hostage and killed by detainees who have also threatened to rape female staff, the Herald can reveal.

A staff member who was assaulted by a detainee when a riot broke out on Monday will need plastic surgery after his glasses were ground into his face when an inmate slammed a door into him as he opened it.


The inmate then took his keys and freed other inmates locked in their rooms during an eight-hour protest by staff over their safety concerns.

The source said the atmosphere at the facility in Lusk, Co Dublin, was even more tense than it was on Monday when the walk-out culminated in a riot and a fire that partially destroyed the roof and caused an estimated €2m in damage.

"The situation has escalated since then," the source said. "The mood here is, to say the least, very sombre. It's tense, negative and nervous."

It is understood that four of the main instigators of the riot have been locked into their rooms, but Oberstown management declined to comment when asked what internal sanctions those involved would face.

The ongoing issue of safety will be the focus of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on Monday after the trade union Impact, representing staff at the centre, agreed to meet management after deferring another day of protest planned for the same day.

"The dispute is entirely about safety," said union spokesman Niall Shanahan.

Staff have been subjected to more than 100 "serious incidents" since the detention facility was expanded last year, he said.


"Every aspect of the operation has to be risk-assessed," the spokesman added.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone visited the centre yesterday to survey the damage and "seek firm assurances that the daily routine of young people will not be impacted into the future".

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