Children’s charities have welcomed the Government’s decision to enact an international convention on child sexual abuse — some 13 years after Ireland signed the legally-binding agreement.
Last September, Ireland became the only country in the 47-member-state Council of Europe yet to ratify the Lanzarote Convention.
CARI, which provides therapeutic services to children affected by sexual abuse, welcomed the Government’s decision.
“The CARI Foundation, welcome Minister (Helen) McEntee’s approval for the ratification of the Lanzarote convention and this strengthening of the law relating to child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation,” said general manager Kate Longmate.
She said they particularly welcomed the provision for protective measures and assistance to victims, including intervention programmes.
“We believe children affected by sexual abuse should have the chance to grow into adulthood defined not by their abusive experiences but by their individuality," Ms Longmate said.
"We hope that the Government’s commitment to protecting children will be reflected by increased investment and funding to organisations like ourselves working with the ever-increasing impact and severity of child sexual abuse in Ireland.”
ISPCC chief executive John Church said: “The recognition of — and prevalence of — child sexual abuse is one of the last taboos we must tackle. Minister McEntee’s pivotal announcement today regarding the Lanzarote Convention should give Ireland the impetus to use this framework to create public awareness of the issue.”
He said it could also go some way to addressing the observations and recommendations set out by UCC Professor Conor O’Mahony, in his first report as Special Rapporteur on Child Protection.
Mr Church called on the Government to recognise the need for a national strategy for responding to child sexual abuse, violence and exploitation.
“It is now time for the Government to show leadership on this by recognising the need for a national and multi-agency strategy for responding to child sexual abuse, violence and exploitation, as recommended by the Garda Inspectorate,” he said.
Prof O’Mahony’s predecessor as special rapporteur, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, called for ratification of the Convention in 2014.
The Law Society previously said ratification required preventative measures, such as vetting and information sharing, consciousness raising, intervention programmes for offenders, child-friendly investigation procedures and international co-operation measures.
The society also said the convention provided for a number of criminal law offences concerning sexual abuse of children, child prostitution, child abuse imagery and corruption of children.
Speaking after the Cabinet's decision, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse has devastating consequences for child victims, their families and society.
“Protecting children is a key priority for this Government, and ratifying the Convention delivers an important message that Ireland is committed to the fight against these reprehensible crimes which target some of the most vulnerable.”