THE Department of Justice is looking at the possibility of a new youth detention centre in Cork but will not make a decision in the near future, according to Junior Minister David Stanton.
Local representatives in both Cork City and Cork County Councils have been calling for a new juvenile detention centre here since the previous one on Spike Island was closed more than a decade ago.
At the most recent meeting of Cork County Council, Councillor Noel Collins proposed that the lack of such a facility outside of Dublin be raised in the European Court of Human Rights.
The motion was unanimously backed by fellow councillors.
“The issue is something that I'm aware of. It's something that I've heard people talking about,” said Minister Stanton, who is also a Cork East representative.
“The Oberstown facility, in Dublin, isn't that long in existence and we're still learning from it and there have been some difficulties there. Prior to that, we had St Pat's which was more like a prison than a detention centre. It's something I am aware of and I'm giving it some consideration but I haven't made any decision on it yet.” A number of County Councillors have suggested that the old Cork Prison on Rathmore Road, which was closed around a year ago, might be a suitable premises for a youth detention centre.
The Minister, however, rejected this idea.
“I wouldn't put anyone in there. It's one of the worst places I've ever been,” he said.
“The old Cork prison is closed now, we built a brand new prison out there. But the Old Cork Prison, I thought was terrible. Both for the staff and the prisoners. I was there two or three times... I thought it was claustrophobic. It was old, the conditions were very bad in there, and it must have been a very bad place to work, never mind having prisoners and trying to rehabilitate people in there.” Speaking on the issue at the most recent Cork County Council meeting, Cllr Collins said there is serious overcrowding at the Oberstown facility, in Lusk, Co Dublin.
He also said it was unfair to Cork families who have loved ones in the facility and who have to travel long distances to see them.
Responding to the Council, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said such families are welcome to apply for exceptional needs payments, under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, when they don't have the money to pay for bus or rail travel themselves.