Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin publish submission to Oireachtas Committee on Child Protection

31 August, 2006

Speaking today before submitting a Sinn Féin Submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Child Protection entitled 'Cherishing Childhood' Sinn Féin Human Rights spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh said "lessons must be learnt and commitments made if current and future children are to be protected."

"There are daily reminders of the threat posed by sexual predators to our children. Just today we hear of a worker at Barrotstown Children's Camp being dismissed from his post for having accessed child pornography on the internet. A certainty stemming from the release of Mr. A, the Ferns Inquiry and previous inquiries in the 1990's is that lessons must be learnt and commitments made if current and future children are to be protected.

"Children's rights are human rights. The Good Friday Agreement obliges the Dublin Government to introduce protections at least equivalent to those in the Six Counties. A number of measures were introduced in the Six Counties in the wake of the Ian Huntley inquiry including the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults Order. This puts an onus on the Dublin Government to introduce and strengthen similar measures here. But ultimately we should be looking to harmonise upwards and introduce an all-Ireland child protection framework that is evidence based, human rights compliant and reflective of international best practice. To this end children's organisations have been calling for an all-Ireland conference on child protection to take place.

"Our submission advocates constitutional reform, specialised training for Gardaí, prosecutors and the judiciary, an effective all-Ireland sex offenders register with pre-release risk assessment and post release supervision. The Children First National guidelines must be fully resourced, implemented and placed on a statutory footing. Garda vetting must be put in place for all employees and volunteers working with children. We are also calling for a major consultation initiative on the age of consent that gives due consideration to the views of young people themselves and that has regard to the experiences of other countries.

"Of course sexual abuse is not the only form of child abuse. In fact the most frequent instances of child abuse involve neglect and our submission also proposes a range of measures that would go someway towards addressing the unjustifiably high rate of child poverty in the Twenty Six Counties." ENDS

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