Saturday, November 28, 2009

‘State failing to protect children from predators’

THE Government has been accused of paying lip-service to the report on clerical abuse in Dublin while failing to protect children from today’s predators.

Fine Gael’s spokesman Alan Shatter said the Government was prepared to "ride the wave of outrage" but had still not managed to introduce a law that allows agencies to exchange soft information on potential abusers.

He said it had not empowered the Health Service Executive to appropriately intervene when children were in danger and this was opening the door for abusers.

"In the year ending December 31, 2008, out of 24,668 reports of children at risk made to the HSE, only 15,364 were assessed and 9,304 reports of children at risk were neither assessed nor investigated.

"Since the year 2000 over 20 children under the care of health boards and/or the HSE have died. Yet no statutory independent review system of deaths of children in care exists despite being called for by both Fine Gael and the Children’s Ombudsman," he said.

The role of the state authorities themselves was also questioned.

And Justice spokesman for the Labour Party, Pat Rabbitte, said the source of greatest anger was the cover-up undertaken by the Church and secular authorities.

He said there were "very serious failures" on behalf of the Gardaí and these needed to be addressed.

Mr Rabbitte said it was essential anybody involved in the crimes or the cover-up should be brought to justice. "Many of those who were involved directly in the abuse and in the cover-up are now dead and no longer amenable to the law.

"However, there is an obligation on the state authorities to make up for its previous failings by now ensuring that anyone still alive who was involved in the abuse, or whose failures to act amounted to criminal offences, are brought to justice at the earliest possible time," he said.

Sinn Féin’s Aengus O Snodaigh expressed similar disgust at the actions of the Gardaí.

And he said the Government could not be allowed off the hook simply because the crimes took place in previous times.

Mr O Snodaigh said the Government had not brought in the necessary legislation to protect children and ensure bodies like the HSE had the power to act.

"It is of great concern, as the report states, that the HSE has given the impression to the Church authorities and the Gardaí that they can do more in the area of child sexual abuse than they actually have the power to do," he said.

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