Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD - 2006 Ard Fheis speech on Equality and Human Rights

17 February, 2006

I am urging the Ard Fheis to support motions 16 through 19 dealing with issues of human trafficking, asylum seekers and more general rights to residence with a particular emphasis on children.

A 2005 'Trafficking in Persons' report has estimated that approximately 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80 per cent are women and girls and up to 50 per cent are minors. Motion 16 proposes a definition of trafficking and opposes any criminalisation of victims. It also calls on the British and Irish Governments to accede to the Palermo Protocol - that is the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (2000).

Trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children must not be seen simply as a problem faced elsewhere in the world, it is happening here. Motion 17 condemns this state's deplorable treatment of the unaccompanied minors entrusted to its care - treatment which amounts to nothing short of neglect. All children regardless of their, or their parents, country of origin have the right to be protected from harm. According to media reports since 2000 at least 250 asylum seeking children in Ireland have gone missing. Many of these from Health Board/Health Service Executive care. Research from other countries demonstrates a terrifying link between human trafficking, children going missing from care and sexual exploitation. 20 of these children are currently missing with little or no response from the authorities. Even the Garda missing persons list includes just 6 of the 20 children. I questioned Michael McDowell on this but he refused or does not care to explain this discrepancy and state failure. These non-Irish children who are often in need of intensive social work interventions are frequently housed in private hostel accommodation that falls outside the remit of the Social Services Inspectorate. The HB/HSEs have made numerous requests for further resources to address this situation, which they recognise as grossly inadequate care. Mary Harney and her FF predecessor repeatedly refused these requests. The Tanaiste also refused to answers questions that I put to her on the numbers missing and their countries of origin reinforcing my belief that she simply does not care about these children.

Unlike the Dublin and Westminster governments, in Sinn Fein we recognise that children's rights are human rights which must be actively protected. We also embrace the moral and legal imperative to cherish all children equally and deem the realisation of this responsibility a benchmark against which genuine Irish republicanism must be judged.

Finally, I will also take a brief moment to support motion 3 on the clar. The Disability Act passed last year was and is a slap in the face to all those people with disabilities, their families, friends and advocates who while seeking rights-based legislation were led on a 5 year merry-go-round of consultations that were ultimately meaningless in terms of the resulting legislation. The Disability Act 2005 is also in breach of the equivalence requirement of the Good Friday Agreement and Sinn Fein will continue our efforts to ensure that it is scrapped and replaced with rights-based legislation.

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