State spends €50k on TV, MP3s and consoles for young offenders
The State has spent almost €50,000 ensuring that young offenders at the Oberstown youth detention centre have access to Sky Sports and have their own TVs and MP3 players.
The centre near Lusk, north Dublin, has been at the centre of controversy after the recent escape of a number of residents, assaults on staff members and a string of resignations that sees 47 vacancies remaining to be filled at Oberstown.
The largest chunk of expenditure between January 2014 and the end of July this year was €36,120 forked out for a TV multi-channel subscription that includes Sky Sports, according to figures released under Freedom of Information laws.
There was €7,950 spent on 34 TV sets, a further €2,248 on 50 Sony MP3 players, €1,346 on CD players and €699 on two games consoles.
The total spending came to more than €48,000.
A Department of Children spokeswoman said that Sky Sports is available in seven separate communal areas of the campus, but not in individuals' rooms. She said part of the spend on television "relates to the need to "boost" the signal due to the topography of the area surrounding the campus".
The Sky subscription "is for the benefit of the young people in detention who have limited access to outdoor activities," she said.
She also noted that all of the children have TVs in their room, but that viewing can be restricted if necessary and the sets only have access to terrestrial channels.
The spokeswoman said the MP3 players allow detainees to listen to music "without impacting on others" and that those "deemed suitable for such devices pay a contribution for these devices from pocket money".
"Music and technology are one of the interests promoted with children while in custody," the spokeswoman said.
"While children are in detention, a child-focused model of care is in place which aims to "normalise" the daily living experience to the maximum extent possible, to promote good behaviour and reduce re-offending."
Fianna Fail's spokesman on children, Robert Troy, last night said "watching Sky Sports or listening to MP3 players all day doesn't do the young people any favours".
He claimed it is "a retrograde step" adding "but because of staff shortages, staff cannot bring the young people out playing soccer."