Internet safety recommendations ‘not implemented’, committee told

‘Confusion’ in Government over who is responsible for protecting children online, expert says

Ronan McGreevy

None of the recommendations made by a Government-appointed group on internet safety have been implemented four years on, according to its chairman.

Brian O'Neill, chair of the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group told an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday "none of the organisational proposals (it made) have been put into effect".

There seems to be confusion among Government departments as to who is responsible for what aspect of internet policy, he also told the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.


In 2014, the group recommended a National Council for Child Internet Safety, which would be chaired by a Government minister to coordinate the internet safety strategy across all departments, but this never happened.

Mr O’Neill acknowledged there have been individual initiatives in relation to cyberbullying and online harassment.

Minister for Communication Denis Naughten responded by stating that about half of the group's recommendations are being progressed at the moment.

He acknowledged that it was important to have an overarching policy at Government level “given the seriousness of the subject”.

Mr Naughten described legislating for internet safety as like “trying to use a 17th century tool to regulate a 21st century technology”.

Legislation can only go so far in regulating such a ubiquitous technology and that internet safety is a society-wide issue, he told the committee.

Mr Naughten was one of four Government ministers to address the committee on the issue.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said a "key moment" for child protection in this country had been reached and that internet safety was an issue for all Government departments.

The Minister for Education Richard Bruton ruled out the possibility of introducing a ban on mobile phones in schools.

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone said such a policy had been implemented in France.

Mr Burton responded by saying the "jury was out" on such a policy. " I don't have a closed mind about this, but I think schools having their own policies is appropriate for the time being."

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the Goverment had chosen 13 as the age of digital consent after consulting with experts. The aim was to achieve a balance, given the different levels of maturity among teenagers.

“People shouldn’t be getting hung up on age. They should be looking at the protections available and the threats associated with cyberbullying and grooming.”

Mr Naughten announced that the Government will not oppose a Sinn Féin private member’s bill on Thursday proposing the appointment of a digital safety commissioner.

When pressed, he said he did know which department would be responsible for such a commissioner.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times