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Professor Ursula Kilkelly and Mr. Pat Bergin Celebrate the Launch of their Book ‘Advancing Children’s Rights in Detention’

20 Jul 2022
Professor Ursula Kilkelly, School of Law UCC and Mr. Pat Bergin, former Director Oberstown Children Detention Campus at the launch of their book 'Advancing Children's Rights in Detention: A Model for International Reform' pictured here with His Honour Judge John O’Connor of the Circuit Court.

On Wednesday 8th June Professor Ursula Kilkelly, School of Law UCC and Mr. Pat Bergin, former Director Oberstown Children Detention Campus celebrated the launch of their book 'Advancing Children's Rights in Detention: A Model for International Reform'. Chaired by Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the event took place at No. 8 Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Published by Bristol University Press, the book documents the process of change in Oberstown Children Detention Campus to implement a rights-based model of detention for children and highlights what can be learned from Ireland's experience.

Addressing a large and diverse audience of policy makers, academics, staff and current and former members of the Board of Management of Oberstown, Professor Kilkelly reflected on her time as Chair of the Board of Oberstown:

''I am proud of what we have achieved in putting in place an ethos where young people are respected, their views taken on board in day-to-day decisions on the Campus and where they receive health, care and education in a world class education and therapeutic facility.''

Speaking at the event, His Honour Judge John O’Connor said:

''The book has filled me with a myriad of emotions. On the one hand there is a deep sadness if not anger at how the most vulnerable children in the centenary of our state foundation have been historically treated and neglected in the industrial schools and in detention for most of the state’s existence… On the other hand, the book fills me with hope, that the integrated model of care now obtaining in a state-of-the-art modern building in Ireland’s only detention centre recognises the importance of collaboration, coordination and shared multi-disciplinary and interagency rights-based approach. It serves as a model not just for Ireland but the wider international community.''

Mr Pat Bergin concluded:

''The experience at Oberstown must be shared and used to influence future change programs, enhancing children’s rights agenda, and shaping government policy and national legislation.''

About the book

Applying a child-centred model of detention that fulfils the rights of the child under the five themes of provision, protection, participation, preparation and partnership, this original book illustrates how reform can happen. Drawing on Ireland’s experience of transforming law, policy and practice, and combining theory with real-life experiences from Oberstown Children Detention Campus, this compelling book demonstrates how children’s rights can be implemented in detention. This important case study of reform presents a powerful argument for a progressive, rights-based approach to child detention. Worthy of international application, the book shares practical insights into how theory can be translated into practice. Find out more:

Further Dicussion on the UCC School of Law Podcast

Professor Ursula Kilkelly and Pat Bergin have recorded a special episode for the UCC School of Law podcast where they discuss the book and their experiences of applying a child-centred model of detention to Oberstown Children Detention Campus. Listen now wherever you get your podcasts (by searching “UCC School of Law") or via:


A video of the international, virtual launch of the book is available here: Book launch: Advancing Children’s Rights in Detention - YouTube

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The authors have also co-written an opinion piece for the Irish Examiner Newspaper, which you can read here: Oberstown could be a world-leading example of how to treat young people in detention (

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Further information about how to apply this experience internationally can be found here: Transforming Society ~ Advancing children’s rights in detention: A global agenda from national experience


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