Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has called on the Health Minister to ensure the inquiry into the exploitation of children and young people is independent and has the power to investigate.
The Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee welcomed the minister’s decision to agree with Sinn Féin that there needs to be an inquiry into the recent revelations.
However, the Foyle MLA stressed the need for the inquiry to ensure first and foremost that our young and vulnerable children and youth are not put at risk again.
The Sinn Féin MLA said:
“Everything we do to highlight and eradicate this abuse needs to be child centered and needs to be about safeguarding and protecting our children and young people – especially those who are most vulnerable.”
The Sinn Féin MLA said the issue was highlighted in a Barnardos report published in 2011 which research dates back to 2009 and the fact that nothing was done about it is a shocking failure.
“The Minister has referred to an investigation – this is not what is required. An inquiry with proper independence, powers to investigate and accountability mechanisms is required.
“We should not be afraid to learn the lessons and if Departments have failed after being mandated to act then they should be made accountable.”
The Foyle MLA said the inquiry must equipped with all the necessary resources and powers to address the abuse, which has taken place and it must be totally transparent.
“It is vital that the inquiry examines why, when it was known that child sexual exploitation was happening from at least 2006, that Departments failed to protect these children.”