As the Deputy may be aware I announced in April 2012, following agreement with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, an investment package for the project to expand the detention places and facilities on the Oberstown campus, known as the national children's detention facility (NCDF) project. The main objective of this project is to meet the Programme for Government commitment to end the practice of detaining children in St Patrick's Institution.
My officials in the Irish Youth Justice Service continue to work closely to progress this project with the Office of Public Works (OPW) which is providing the relevant project management services for my Department. The tender process for the award of a contract for the project is currently ongoing and the current projected timeline estimate from the OPW indicates that the first new residential units, to provide sufficient capacity to end the practice of sending 17 year old boys to St. Patrick's Institution, will be available for use by mid 2014. My aim is to deliver suitable detention facilities on the earliest possible date, in a manner that complies with all design, planning and heath and safety requirements. I am also conscious that the Oberstown campus is already the location of the existing children detention facilities and these must remain in operation during the construction project. The overall project for the campus, which will also replace some existing outdated buildings and deliver education, visiting and other ancillary facilities, is currently scheduled for completion by mid 2015.
I assume the second part of the Deputy's question relates to when it will be possible to cease detaining 16 and 17 year old boys in St Patrick's Institution in totality. In relation to 16 year old boys, I announced the ending of the practice of detaining 16 year old boys in St Patrick’s Institution from 1 May 2012 by using existing capacity that was available on the Oberstown campus. Since July 2012, there have been no 16 year old boys detained in St Patrick’s Institution. On foot of legal changes that I have made, all 16 year old boys are now detained at Oberstown and for the first time are no longer sent to St. Patrick's Institution.
Ending the practice of detaining 17 year old boys in St Patrick's Institution will be achieved through the provision of further capacity in Oberstown by mid 2014 under the capital project now underway. In relation to the 17 year old boys who will be detained at that time on the Oberstown campus, I will have to consider the required practical, security and legal issues involved in the transition from the prison model to the children detention model, which will also involve consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.
I also intend to examine the feasibility of accommodating some categories of the 17 year old age group in Oberstown before mid 2014. In October of last year, I asked the Oberstown Board of Management and the Irish Youth Justice Service to keep this matter under review based on the trend of occupancy in Oberstown under the recent change in age categories, and I understand that their report will be available to me within the coming weeks. I will consider the information provided at that time, as well as relevant advices from the Office of the Attorney General.