The Government has postponed its plans to build a new detention centre for teenage boys in north Co Dublin.

It was hoped the facility would end the sustained international pressure on Irish authorities to stop the practice of sending youth offenders to prison.

The National Children's Detention facility was supposed to house 16 and 17 year-old boys who are currently sent to St Patrick's Institution.

However, only a set of gates has been built on the greenfield site in Oberstown, near Lusk.

In 2008, former Minister for Children Brendan Smith announced the development of the National Children's Detention facility, which he said he hoped to have partially operational by 2011.

It has now been effectively shelved by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter because of a lack of funding.

Responding to questioning from Dáil deputies in December, Minister Shatter said that it was "not unfortunately possible to include the Oberstown project in the recent list of projects covered by the Government capital investment framework".

Ireland has been criticised by the United Nations Committee Against Torture and the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner for continuing the practice of detaining 16 and 17 year-old boys in the prison-like conditions of St Patrick's Institution.

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to stop sending these teenagers to prison.

Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan has called on the Government to clarify what will happen next.

She said it was clear that the Government's Plan A was not going ahead and she would like the Minister for Children and the Minister for Justice to outline what their Plan B is now.

According to the Department of Children, negotiations are ongoing to try to find funding for the facility.