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Sinn Féin calls for retention of Ombudsman for Children Office

16 July, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Speaking following the disclosure that the report of the so-called An Bord Snip Nua has proposed to merge the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) with the Office of the Ombudsman, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children, Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin stated that such a proposal would be “completely unacceptable” and would show an absolute disregard for children in this state.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said;

“If we are to learn anything from the treatment of children by this state in the past, it is that having a distinct Ombudsman to advocate on behalf of children and for the rights of children is of fundamental importance. The proposal being put forward by An Bord Snip Nua to merge the Ombudsman for Children’s Office into the general Ombudsman’s office is completely unacceptable and shows an absolute disregard for the children of this state.

“For too long, children’s issues were either ignored or actively silenced. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is the only body that is specifically obliged to work in the best interests of children. Sinn Féin has consistently campaigned for all decisions and all address of children’s issues and needs to have the best interests of the child as the guiding principal. No other organisation does that, and that includes the HSE, the Dept. of Health and Children, the Dept. of Education and those involved in the care system. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office should not be closed because of the economic mismanagement of the economy by this government who have a responsibility to protect children and ensure children’s rights are upheld at all times.

“There are thousands of children in the care system, many of whom have no social workers or even a social worker whom they only see once every couple of years. Who will listen to those vulnerable children if this office is closed? Sinn Féin believes that not only should the Ombudsman for Children’s Office be retained as a distinct and child-centred office but also that its remit should be expanded.

“As well as this I am highly concerned at the implications of the proposed closure of the Children’s Ombudsman’s Office as it goes against the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement in relation to standards across the island of Ireland. It will be a disgraceful situation if the children of the Six Counties will have the Commissioner for Children (NICCY) to advocate for the robust protection of their rights and that children in the 26 Counties will be left with no one to uniquely represent them and ensure that their rights are upheld.

“I am calling on the Government to make an immediate commitment that the OCO will not be subjected to these proposed cuts and will remain a distinct and independent child-centred office.” ENDS

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