Welcome for child protection recommendations

Groups working with children urge implementation of rapporteur’s report

Dr Geoffrey Shannon: Special Rapporteur on Child Protection reappointed for a further three years.

Dr Geoffrey Shannon: Special Rapporteur on Child Protection reappointed for a further three years.


Key recommendations in the latest report by the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection must be implemented, groups advocating for young people and children have said.

Among the recommendations in the report by Geoffrey Shannon, which is to be brought to Government and published shortly, are that cyberbullying be made a criminal offence; that schools be legally mandated to draw up and enforce strict disciplinary codes with regard to bullying and the misuse of social media; and that automatic guardianship rights be extended to unmarried fathers and stepparents.

It also highlights the lack of legal clarity surrounding the position of children in families headed by same-sex couples.

This is the sixth report from Dr Shannon in his role as Government-appointed Special Rapporteur on Child Protection.

The single-parent support charity Treoir welcomed the recommendation on extending guardianship rights to step-parents and civil partners.

On Dr Shannon’s recommendation that the State consider extending rights and obligations to family members who act in loco parentis and are involved in the day-to-day care of children, Treoir said this should be legislated for.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland urged the Government to act on concerns raised about racist bullying and child trafficking into Ireland.

“We must look at the issue of racist bullying and the impact it has in our schools. It is an issue which parents, teachers and school management cannot ignore or be complacent about,” said the council in a statement last night.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network said the report highlighted the fact that homophobic and transphobic bullying were serious problems in Irish schools.

“The special rapporteur’s report outlines the Irish research that illustrates the difficult experiences of LGBT young people in Irish schools, including that 50 per cent experienced verbal homophobic or transphobic bullying; 25 per cent were physically threatened by their peers; and that 34 per cent heard homophobic comments from their teachers,” said Sandra Irwin-Gowran, the network’s director of education.

“The research also found a direct correlation between homophobic and transphobic bullying and attempted suicide.

“Schools already have legal obligations to address homophobic and transphobic bullying, and many schools are doing so. However, in many schools there is still a silence around LGBT issues, which creates a climate where such bullying continues unchallenged.”

Ms Irwin-Gowran added: “We also welcome the recommendation of the special rapporteur that further legislation should be introduced compelling schools to have a strong disciplinary code.”

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said some of the recommendations were for the Department of Justice, particularly those relating to children in the asylum process and guardianship of children, while others were cross-departmental, particularly in relation to bullying, and were for the Departments of Justice and Equality, of Children and Youth Affairs and of Education and Skills.

She also confirmed the reappointment of Dr Shannon to the role of special rapporteur for a further three years.

“Dr Shannon’s reports on legal developments relating to the protection of children and the assessment of what impact, if any, litigation in national and international courts will have on child protection, have informed policy and have provided an objective and independent expert view of the child protection system in Ireland,” she said.