Ireland, the UN and the rights of the child

 

Sir, – The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone’s call for the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The protocol details important safeguarding measures for children and young people from offences including child trafficking, child abuse material (referred to in the protocol as child pornography) and child prostitution.

It is good to see the Government finally pushing ratification as a political priority for 2019. This protocol covers some of the worst offences that can be committed against children, including child trafficking, child prostitution or the production, consumption, dissemination or possession of child abuse material. Ratification will demonstrate that Ireland is meeting the highest standards in the protection of our children and young people and sends a clear message nationally and internationally that these offences will not be tolerated here.

The protocol creates obligations on Governments to criminalise and punish activities related to these offences. It also prioritises the voice of the child at the heart of these cases. Countries are required to adopt appropriate measures to protect the rights and interests of child victims at all stages of the criminal justice process, including measures recognising their vulnerability. We have seen our Government’s commitment to this particular requirement in the most recent budget, which included a “one-house model” in Galway for children who have been sexually abused. We look forward to seeing how this pilot model works and how it can be resourced in order to reach vulnerable children all across the country.

The Minister’s announcement today follows almost two decades of work from organisations including the Children’s Rights Alliance and our members to ensure Ireland remained committed to the standards in the protocol and that the legal requirements were in place for Ireland to join the rest of the EU in ratifying the protocol. It is something we recently advocated for in May of 2018 when we met with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, during her visit to Dublin. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also recommended that Ireland ratify the protocol back in 2016. It is now time that we take the final step in defining the kind of country that we are when it comes to the care and protection of our children and young people. – Yours, etc,

TANYA WARD,

Chief Executive,

Red Cow Lane,

Smithfield, Dublin 7.