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Government must provide Garda vetting services for volunteers working with children - Ó Snodaigh

9 November, 2005


Sinn Féin Human Rights spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the Government's ongoing failure to extend "essential" Garda Síochana vetting services to cover volunteers who work with children is "unacceptable".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "In September 2004 Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Children Brian Lenihan announced that the Garda Siochana's vetting services would be extended to cover volunteers who work with children. Over a year later there is yet to be any sign of delivery on this promise. Indeed just yesterday, in the wake of the Ferns report, Minister for Education Mary Hanafin indicated that volunteers will not be vetted. The government's ongoing failure to deliver this essential effort towards the prevention of child abuse is simply unacceptable.

"The Garda Siochana are the only agency in the state with statutory responsibility for the investigation of child abuse. As such it is imperative that each and every Garda receives comprehensive child protection training to a level adequate to equip them for dealing with child protection issues.

"The demands made by Sinn Fein and others today must be met if the new and next generation of children are to be protected from abuse." ENDS

Full speech follows:

FERNS REPORT STATEMENT

Aengus O Snodaigh -- 09 November 2005

I would like to join with my colleagues in this House in paying tribute to the courage and strength of the many victims of child abuse on this island. I would also reiterate the imperative that lessons from the Ferns report are taken on board.

Both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Child Care Act 1991 enshrine the principle that the welfare of the child must be the paramount consideration in all decisions and interventions. If the government is to deliver on this moral duty and legal obligation a number of issues must be addressed. My colleague Deputy O Caolain identified a number of measures and Deputy Crowe has made the case for the resourcing of Children First. I would add to his contribution that, funding should also be made available directly to the youth work sector to enable it to deliver appropriate child protection training as the needs specific to that sector are identified. This might be rolled out under the aegis of the Child Protection Unit in the National Youth Council of Ireland.

The undertaking of the state's special responsibility to protect children must be underpinned by two primary components: Prevention and Response. As Sinn Fein spokesperson for Justice, Equality and Human Rights I will elaborate on the 2 further recommendations, relating to prevention and response respectively, made by Deputy O Caolain this morning, namely: Garda vetting and Garda training.

In this state for every employee working with children there are at least 20 volunteers. In September 2004 Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Children Brian Lenihan announced that the Garda Siochana's vetting services would be extended to cover volunteers who work with children. Over a year later there is yet to be any sign of delivery on this promise. Indeed just yesterday, in the wake of the Ferns report, Minister for Education Mary Hanafin indicated that volunteers will not be vetted and the reasoning she offered was to protect volunteerism. This notion is at stark odds with the reality that the main source of demand for vetting of volunteers is the voluntary sector itself. The government's ongoing failure to deliver this essential effort towards the prevention of child abuse is simply unacceptable.

Secondly, the Garda Siochana are the only agency in the state with statutory responsibility for the investigation of child abuse. As such it is imperative that each and every Garda receives comprehensive child protection training to a level adequate to equip them for dealing with child protection issues. Currently only a select few Gardai have received such training. This training should be compulsory for all new and existing Gardai, it should be developed, resourced and rolled out as a matter of urgency.

To conclude, the definition of physical abuse outlined by Children First includes injuries resulting from neglectful failure to protect a child. I put it to this government that the demands made by Sinn Fein and others today must be met if the new and next generation of children are to be protected from abuse.

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