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A Great Day for Irish Children

April 25, 2012

Today is a great day for Irish children. Two new pieces of legislation have been published – a Children’s First Bill and a Criminal Justice Bill. It will soon be an offence to have information about a child who is being abused and not to report it to the HSE or to the Gardai. For too long we have maintained a fiction in this country that we cherish our children and that Ireland is a great place to grow up. The truth, as all the Reports of the last decade show, is that we are a country where adults turn their faces away from the abuse and torture of children and do nothing. That is about to change.

Mandatory reporting is a complex issue. On the one hand, we do not want to create a situation where survivors are afraid to come forward for help because professionals will have to report the crime. On the other hand we cannot ignore children who at risk. The new legislation finely balances this dilemma. Crimes against children must only be reported to the Gardai if the victim wishes to do so, or if it is in the best interests of the child. However, all allegations must be reported to the HSE child protection services who have a duty to ensure that children are safe. In our experience at One in Four, when survivors are given clear information and solid support, they decide to report to the HSE. They want other children to be safe. But only about 30% of our clients make a statement to the Gardai.

All the laws in the world will not protect children unless the resources are there to implement them. If we are to develop a world class child protection system, we must spend money on public education campaigns, on services like One in Four and on the HSE and Gardai who will have to work the new legislation. Times are hard and difficult decisions will have to be made. But starting today, if we choose, we could begin to make Ireland a place where children are truly safe from sexual harm.

Maeve Lewis

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Categories: General.

ONE IN FOUR WELCOMES NEW CHILD PROTECTION LEGISLATION

April 25, 2012

One in Four warmly welcomes two new pieces of legislation published today. We do not have an effective child protection system in this country. The Criminal Justice Bill and the Children First Bill will for the first time create an obligation to report all concerns about children to the statutory authorities.  We commend Minister Fitzgerald and Minister Shatter for introducing this long overdue legislation.  

Executive Director Maeve Lewis says: “The Reports of the past decade have shown clearly what happens when adults look the other way and do not act to protect children.  Thousands of Irish children have been sexually abused in their families, communities and in the Catholic Church and the effects of that abuse have devastated every aspect of their lives.  From now on we will all have a duty to make our concerns known”

Maeve Lewis continues” We are worried  that survivors might be reluctant to come forward to seek help if total confidentiality cannot be maintained.    They fear, often with good reason, the reaction of their families and communities to a disclosure.  Balancing the needs of survivors to access services with the need to protect children requires skilled professional intervention.  We welcome the fact that reports will only be made to the Gardai if the survivor so wishes. One in Four already works within the Children First Guidelines and in our experience most survivors agree to report allegations to the HSE child protection services because they do not want other children to suffer the same abuse”

Maeve Lewis ends: “The new legislation will only be effective if resources are made available to the statutory agencies and to the non-governmental organisations who support survivors.   In these difficult times hard decisions will have to be made.  We like to think of ourselves as a society that cherishes our children but the recent revelations have shown this to be false.  We now have an opportunity to create a world class child protection system so that Ireland becomes a place where children can grow up safe from sexual harm.”

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Categories: Press Releases.

The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in Primary Schools Does Not Address Key Issue

April 17, 2012

The report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in Primary schools was published last week and has generally been welcomed across all shades of opinion. However to my mind it fails to address a key issue: why is the State not responsible if a child is sexually abused at school?

A couple of years ago a brave woman from Cork called Louise O’Keefe went all the way to the Supreme Court to try to establish that the Department of Education was legally responsible for her sexual abuse by the man who was the principal of her primary school. The Department of Education vigorously defended the case and the Supreme Court found against her. It held that in this instance it was the patron of the school, the Bishop of Cork, who was legally responsible for the conduct of the teachers employed under his patronage.

Now, I’m not a legal person or a learned judge, but it has always seemed to me to be nonsense that the Department which lays down the standards for teacher training, pays their salaries, decides the curriculum and provides inspections of their work should be able to avoid all responsibility when a
teacher sexually abuses a child. Currently over 90% of primary schools are under the patronage of the Catholic Church and I do wonder if bishops, given their track record, are the best people to be responsible for child protection? And even if some schools shift to another patron, be it the VECs or Educate Together, should the Department of Education really be able to hand over such a crucial responsibility?

Louise O’Keefe is currently pursuing her case to the European Court and she has my absolute support. But it makes me angry that one courageous woman should have to risk everything, including her home, so that the Irish state be made to face an essential obligation of democratic governance: ensuring the safety of the nation’s children.

Maeve Lewis

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Categories: General.

Celebrations Can be Nightmares for Survivors of Abuse

April 4, 2012

Here at One in Four we are all looking forward to Easter. We’re closed for four days and our overworked staff are ready for a good break. All sorts of plans are afoot to get away or to stay at home, to hang out with friends and family.

But we need to spare a thought for the many people who dread weekends like this. I’m thinking of the people who were sexually abused as children and who are continuing to deal with the effects of that. One casualty of abuse can be relationships with family members especially if the abuse was in the family. For people in this position times like Christmas and Easter can be lonely and grim. Everybody else seems to have family plans and abuse survivors can feel isolated and different. Every family has its strains and its dysfunctions, but this may be exacerbated where there has been abuse. This can make it impossible for survivors to remain in contact with their family.

One in four Irish people have been sexually abused so we are talking about an awful lot of people who may be feeling sad and excluded this weekend.

Maeve Lewis

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Categories: General.

Survey of Survivors of Clerical Sexual Abuse.

April 3, 2012

MACSAS, a UK-based organisation for survivors of clerical sexual abuse are conducting a survey of people who have been affected by such abuse. Full details of the survey are available at http://www.macsas.org.uk/

The deadline for completing the survey has been extended to April 30th.

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Categories: General.

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