Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Special Schools for Young Offenders.


asked the Minister for Education the proposed locations of the new special secure schools for delinquent children; the expected date of opening of these schools; and the type of management structures proposed for the administration of these schools.


asked the Minister for Education when the new detention centres will be provided to house young offenders of unruly or unmanageable character.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 19 together.

It is proposed to locate the new school for boys adjacent to the existing open school at Oberstown, County Dublin. The location for the girls' school has not yet been decided, but it is contemplated that it will be within convenient reach of Dublin. As detailed planning of the school for boys has only just commenced, I am not yet in a position to announce the expected date of opening. The schools will be classified and operated as special national schools. My immediate priority is to provide the buildings: the management structure for the schools will be decided in due course following consultation with all the interests concerned.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the serious reservations being expressed in public about the establishment of the proposed secure schools? What consultations had he entered into prior to deciding to establish such secure schools?

I am not so aware. I am aware of the concern and anxiety on the part of the public that these schools should be provided.

I read the papers and I take it the Parliamentary Secretary does also?

That is not a question.

On a number of occasions last month did the Parliamentary Secretary read letters and statements issued by educationalists——

I am calling the next question.

No, I did not.

That is an appalling situation.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary give a guarantee that these special national schools will not be what might be styled junior or children's prisons but that instead they will be places of enlightenment and discipline——

That is a separate question.

No, it is not. It has to do with the nature of the schools, the management structures and, therefore, the staffing and so on. In other words, what I am really asking is: has the Parliamentary Secretary a clear idea of what these schools will be? I presume he has some idea, as planning has commenced. Therefore, could he give us some assurance?

I know the Deputy does not intend this, but what he is saying could detract from St. Laurence's, St. Michael's or Aras Mhuire. He has my assurance that the schools will be in accordance with the present enlightened approach in regard to how such schools should be administered.

I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply. I used the words "unruly or unmanageable"—I do not know where I got them— but what type of child will be in these schools?

The child will be one who is not normally in a position to benefit from, avail of, or be amenable to normal national school education.

Will these schools be run by a religious order or by lay teachers.

That has not been decided. In respect of the new school at Oberstown, there will be a lay director and an advisory board of management representative of all interests.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary undertake to consult in detail with the Minister for Justice on this matter in view of his announcement about amending legislation relating to children under 16 years of age relative to St. Patrick's institution, and would he in particular consult in detail with them in view of the notorious lack of consultation between his Department and the Department of Justice?

That is a separate question.

The Minister for Justice and I have been in consultation regarding this proposal. I can assure the Deputy that there is no question of harbouring these children, even as a temporary measure, in St. Patrick's.

Next question.

Arising from an earlier supplementary, can I take it that the schools planned are only for children who have committed criminal offences?

I have called Question No. 20.

The child in question would have come under the notice of the Garda authorities for one reason or another.