The Irish Times view on child protection: unacceptable delays

The State is the only EU member that has not ratified a convention to prevent child sex abuse

The shortcomings of government in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have been criticised in a number of reports by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

The shortcomings of government in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have been criticised in a number of reports by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

 

Ireland was one of the first of many countries to sign the Lanzarote Convention, designed to prevent the sexual abuse of children. That was 12 years ago. The State is now the only EU member state that has yet to ratify the convention and implement its provisions. Child protection and human rights are areas that demand a more determined, all-of-government approach here.

There has been a tendency by successive governments to engage in gesture politics by unveiling grandiose healthcare plans or by signing international conventions and then failing to fund or develop the structures needed to implement them.

Government shortcomings in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have been criticised by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

It took 10 years to ratify the UN disabilities convention and, today, thousands of children with mental health issues are awaiting assessment. In spite of such political failure and bureaucratic inertia, however, significant progress has been made within the past decade to protect and promote the rights of the child and the family.

The shortcomings of Government in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have been criticised in a number of reports by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. It found compliance to be “uneven and inconsistent” while recognising that “significant progress” had been made in the context of past failures. The Lanzarote Convention envisages a broad range of measures to protect children within and outside the family home. It deals with child abuse material and prostitution, online grooming and the screening of individuals who work with children.

The Department of Justice has explained that delays in this instance were caused by the need to ensure that “stakeholders” in the HSE, the Garda Síochána and the Department of Children were fully compliant with the provisions of the convention. It may not be as simple as that. The Department itself did not publish a Bill until 2015 and it became law two years later. The Attorney General must now rule that intended changes must conform to the Lanzarote convention before it can be ratified. Such long delays are unacceptable.

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