Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Health
Question 66: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of meetings she has had with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the Oberstown project; and the dates on which these meetings were held. [8061/12]
Question 75: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the meetings she has held with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the construction of a national children's detention centre in Oberstown, County Dublin; the outcome of the meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8107/12]
Question 76: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she expects funding for construction of a national children's detention centre in Oberstown, County Dublin, to be approved this year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8109/12]
Question 84: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the Irish Youth Justice Service have reassessed the projected cost of the Oberstown project as she has requested; if she will provide the details of the newly assessed projected cost; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8060/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 75, 76 and 84 together.
The proposed National Children Detention Facility (NCDF) is a project to provide residential detention places for all young people detained by the courts on criminal charges, within a children detention school setting at Oberstown, North County Dublin. The Oberstown campus is currently the site of the 3 existing detention schools, Oberstown Boys School, Oberstown Girls School and Trinity House School.
The Government is committed to ending the practice of sending 16 and 17 year old boys to St Patrick's institution. It is a priority of mine to ensure that this practice ends as soon as possible and the funding of the Oberstown project is a key element in resolving this issue. I have asked the Irish Youth Justice Service to reassess the projected cost of the Oberstown project to bring it into line with current price levels and current economic realities. This process is ongoing and the Irish Youth Justice Service has been tasked with progressing to completion during 2012 the design work and tender documentation for the NCDF project. Even when funding for the construction stage of the project is finalised, this work will still have to be completed. I do not propose to comment on estimated project costs in advance of any tendering process.
I had consultations on this issue with the Minister for Justice and Equality in advance of the taking over legal responsibility for this area from 1 January 2012. I met with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the funding of the Oberstown project on 29 November 2011, 6 December 2011 and 10 January 2012. I wrote to him on 17 January 2012 to emphasise the priority that should be attached to this project. I do not propose to comment further on these consultations, except to say that the House can be assured that I will continue to make the case at Government level on the priority that should be given to this project.
Finally, in taking over responsibility for the children detention schools last month I tasked a group to look at interim and innovative solutions that could provide alternatives to detention in St. Patrick's Institution for as many 16 and 17 year old boys as possible. The group is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and comprises of senior officials from the Irish Youth Justice Service, Irish Prison Service, and the Probation Service. I understand that the group is making significant progress and I expect to be in a position to provide details of the short term measures to be taken on foot of the group's deliberations shortly.