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Taoiseach's defence of McDowell's flawed legislation deeply misguided

8 June, 2006

Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described the Taoiseach’s defence of Michael McDowell’s flawed legislation which went through the Dáil last week as deeply misguided.  Deputy Ó Caoláin said ‘While there was support for the broad thrust of last week’s emergency legislation because of the urgent need to shut down a loophole which resulted in a sex offender being released, it was also accepted that the Justice Department had made some fundamental errors in the legislation which would need to be corrected quickly.”

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “While there was unanimous support for closing down the loophole which saw a self-confessed sex offender released, it was also made clear in the Dáil last week that the emergency legislation brought forward by the Justice Department contained some deep flaws which would need to be corrected immediately.

“Some very fundamental questions arise out of last week’s emergency legislation, most particularly there are concerns at the prospect of 17 year old boys being criminalised for engaging in consensual sex.  Undoubtedly the issue of teenage sex needs to be addressed but I don’t think any parent would accept that law in its current form.

“There has been a lot of talk in recent days about ‘communications failure’ in relation to this crisis but little attempt to put this into the broader context of child protection.  This is not just a legal question – it is a political and indeed a moral one.  There is the basic issue of thousands of vulnerable children in this state – children who are living in poverty, children living on the streets, children who are falling through the cracks in the system due to a lack of intervention. It took thirty years to draft the 2001 Children Act but since it was signed into law there has been little follow through by this government.  And surely this can’t be explained away as a communications failure.

“If the government is serious about addressing child protection – they need to look at it in all of its aspects and not merely in the legal arena.  There is little point in the Taoiseach rowing in behind Minister McDowell and pretending that everything is all right now, when it clearly is not.” ENDS

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