Ombudsman for Children seeks permission to ‘engage directly’ with Ukrainian children accommodated by State

Office wants to hold ‘rights-awareness workshops, consultations with children and their parents, and complaints clinics’

The Ombudsman for Children has written to the Government asking for access to visit Ukrainian children who are accommodated in Ireland under the Temporary Protection Directive, as his office has so far “not had the opportunity to engage directly” with them, correspondence reveals.*

In a letter to the secretary general of the Department of Equality dated March 28th, Dr Niall Muldoon said his office would “like to visit a small number of these settings to inform our future work”, particularly children “residing in congregated settings”. The letter was released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Irish Times reported on Monday that the ombudsman had written to the HSE, accusing the State of a “profound violation of children’s rights” in the areas of mental health and disability care. Dr Muldoon has previously criticised “inadequate emergency accommodation” for children seeking international protection, though his office has been able to conduct work directly with children in settings such as direct provision accommodation centres.

The ombudsman has asked for his office to also have access to Ukrainian children accommodated by the State to conduct “rights awareness workshops, consultations with children and their parents and complaints clinics”.


“Initial visits to a small number of congregated settings will allow us to better understand the children’s living circumstances and help us to tailor interventions to their specific needs. It would be useful for us to meet with on-site staff, as well as any parents or children who want to talk to us informally,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the ombudsman’s office said it “continues to liaise with the department in order to progress this work. We have not undertaken any visits to such settings so far, but are planning to do so before the end of 2023 if at all possible.”

A spokesman for the Department of Equality said “child welfare is of paramount concern to the department in all locations where children are accommodated”.

“The department officials are available to support the office of the Ombudsman to carry out their future work with children who are fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. The department requires accommodation providers to have a suitable private area available at the accommodation setting for use by the department and its State service partners,” the spokesman said. These could include the HSE or Tusla as well as others.

Earlier in the year Mr Muldoon expressed concerns regarding protests outside accommodation for international protection applicants. Addressing the ombudsman’s concerns, Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman responded by letter in April, saying: “With regard to your point about families being accommodated while protests were taking place, the department made every effort to accommodate families at times when protests had subsided in order to limit exposure to these activities.”

The Minister was referring to anti-immigration protests taking place in East Wall on Dublin’s north side late last year and early this year.

“Families were moved to the centre following a decision by protesters to continue their demonstrations away from the centre,” the Minister wrote.

*The headline and text of this article were amended on Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times