The seminar, "Effecting Change: Learning from the experience of Oberstown" took place on Thursday, 3rd March, 2022.

ACJRD was very pleased to collaborate with Professor Ursula Kilkelly, Chairperson of the Board of Management, Oberstown Children Detention Campus, and Pat Bergin, former Director of Oberstown Children Detention Campus, and current Head of Service, National Forensic Mental Health Service, to deliver the online seminar "Effecting Change: Learning from the experience of Oberstown".  This seminar was chaired by Dr. Mary Rogan, Associate Professor in Law, Trinity College Dublin.

Over a period of seven years, Pat Bergin as Director and Ursula Kilkelly as chair of the Board of Management had responsibility for delivering major change in the Irish youth justice system, specifically in Oberstown Children Detention Campus.  Published by Bristol University Press, their book - Advancing the rights of children in detention; A model for international reform – documents this challenging and complex journey.  (See below for links for the book, launch, blog and podcast.) It included the delivery of a major capital project, the amalgamation of existing services and resources and bringing about major improvements in the quality of care provided to children in detention.  All of this led to the establishment of a modern child-centred detention facility, a leader of its kind internationally, and it enabled the ending of imprisonment of children in Ireland in line with national policy.  

While some aspects of this leadership experience were unique, the process shared the hallmarks of change processes everywhere.  While particularly relevant to detention and to criminal justice and children’s services generally, the lessons to be learned from this change process are indeed much more widely applicable.

The aim of this event was to present the details of the change achieved in Oberstown and to highlight, for discussion, how the lessons to be learned could effect change elsewhere in the criminal justice system.

To view the slide presentation from this seminar, please click here.


Pat Bergin was the first Director of Oberstown Children Detention Campus, the national facility for the detention of children under 18 years between 2013 and 2020.  During this time, Pat delivered transformative change in the care of children in detention in Ireland, leading to the ending of imprisonment and the development of a child-centred model of care. Pat is currently Head of Service at the Forensic Mental Health Services in Ireland.

Professor Ursula Kilkelly is a professor of law at the School of Law, University College Cork in Ireland. She has been researching and publishing children’s rights for nearly two decades with particular reference to the implementation of children’s rights including in youth justice and detention. In 2016 Ursula was appointed by the Irish Minister for Children as Chairperson of the Board of Management of Oberstown Children Detention Campus.  Since then, she has overseen a major overhaul of child detention in Ireland in line with international children’s rights standards a process which she continues to lead during her second term as Chairperson. 

Dr Mary Rogan is an Associate Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin and the Principal Investigator of the PRILA project, funded by the European Research Council, which explores the oversight of prisons. She is the President of the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation.


The  Chatham  House  Rule:

To encourage openness and the sharing of information, the Chatham House Rule was invoked at this seminar.

*The Chatham House Rule reads as follows:  "When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed".



Advancing Children’s Rights in Detention, with launch, blog and podcast details below

The Video of the launch:

The Blog:

The Podcast: