Challenging “The Way It Is”

Frances Fitzgerald TD
Frances Fitzgerald TD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With a lot of focus on the banks, the debt crisis and the upcoming Treaty Referendum, once again the issue of Children’s right gets pushed back.

We are now awaiting the third version of the proposed wording of the Constitutional Referendum and that hasn’t emerged yet. Meanwhile many Children aren’t being taken into account as they have no rights in relation to The Family as defined by the Constitution.

With children in care from married families who cannot be adopted and the state afraid to act in some cases due to the Constitutional rights of the family children are being failed.

The state needs to buck up. It needs to protect children at all levels and it needs this amendment to do it.

The Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald is doing sterling work in keeping children to the fore and plans to challenge the status quo. She had the following to say at the Young Fine Gael National Conference back in February.

“We are nationally less concerned about the legacy of oversights,

mistakes, needs not met and care not given. Those failings are less headline-grabbing, less talked about and less obvious than abuse. And because they are less obvious they are more accepted.

We have come to accept that all children are not equal. We have come to accept that the children of the poor will stay poor and the children of the rich will stay rich. We have come to accept that the children of travellers will not live as long as the children of the settled. We have come to accept that the children of bad parents will suffer, while the children of good parents will prosper.

We have come to accept that awful phrase ‘that’s just the way it is’.

Well my department was created to change that phrase. The Taoiseach introduced a Minister for children specifically to challenge ‘the way it is’.

Around 9,000 young people leave school each year before taking the Leaving Certificate. The unemployment rate among early school leavers in 2009 was twice that of those who finished. That’s the way it is.

One in ten Irish children and adolescents suffer a mental heath

disorder. That’s the way it is.

The average age at which Irish teenagers being drinking is 14. Alcohol contributes to 50% of all youth offending and 50% of suicides. That’s the way it is.

I’ve made clear to my officials that second big challenge after

providing protection is to challenge ‘the way it is.’ Fundamentally that means providing opportunity. Equal opportunity. For every child. Equal opportunity to be healthy, happy, loved and fulfilled. “

Minister Fitzgerald also has a lot of work to do on Child Protection which she brought up at the recent Fine Gael Ard Fheis,

Everyone knows the economic shambles this government inherited from our predecessors. Everyone knows about the awful planning decisions, ill-judged taxes and pro-cyclical, election-focused economic policies that Fiannail used to drive this country onto the rocks.

People are not as aware of the shambles they left us in child protection.

No national framework for service delivery. No proper data collection. No standard methodology for assessing and referring cases. No needs-assessment for NGO funding. No linking up of HSE, community and voluntary agencies.

What we have found, in one word, is a disgrace.

Fixing this is going to take a long time. Luckily, we have the great advantage of working with dedicated, hard-working and committed people across every aspect of the sector. Rarely do you find a sector with such a mismatch between the dedication of its people and the incoherence of the system in which they operate.

Fixing this will require us to draw all of those people together in a system which puts children first.

Which I am doing.

Fixing this will require a national framework for child services.

Which we are developing

And

Fixing this needs law.

Which we are bringing in.

The heads of the Children First Bill are currently before the Oireachtas Health Committee and will hopefully be law before the end of the year.

A lot of steps have been taken, or started to be taken to try and get things right for Children in Ireland.

There a lot more issues that need to be fixed, but at least we are staring.

For more information on Children’s Right’s issue’s in Ireland check out Campaign for Children

The Pope’s Letter to Irish Catholics

Derivative Work. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Po...
Image via Wikipedia

Having read Pope Benedict’s XVI pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, I can say I my respect for him and the Vatican has increased.

He has apologised on behalf of the church and is sending an Apostolic Visitation for certain Diocese. It will be interesting to see which ones.

I have reproduced part of the letter below,

6. To the victims of abuse and their families

You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church. I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ’s own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love – even in the darkest and most hopeless situations – to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning.

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

7. To priests and religious who have abused children

You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.

……

14. I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation.

At the conclusion of my meeting with the Irish bishops, I asked that Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country. I now invite all of you to devote your Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention. I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland. I encourage you to discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace.

Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.

I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32).

Furthermore, having consulted and prayed about the matter, I intend to hold an Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations. Arrangements for the Visitation, which is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal, will be made in cooperation with the competent offices of the Roman Curia and the Irish Episcopal Conference. The details will be announced in due course.

I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church.

Read the full letter here. It is worth reading.

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Anti gay adoption article in Todays Irish Examiner

Saw this over on gaycork.com. This article was on page 18 of the paper, im really annoyed by it.

article removed for legal reasons

Won’t Some one please think of the Children!!!

Via BreakingNews.ie

Children’s helpline ‘struggled to cope’ with Christmas calls

The ISPCC says it struggled to cope with hundreds of calls it received from distressed children this Christmas.

The help-line handled nearly 700 calls from children seeking help on Christmas Day.

Most of the children had been left alone at Christmas, or were upset by alcohol abuse in their home.

The thirty volunteers who manned the line say many children were unable to get through because the lines were busy.

I think it is important that we think f the most vulnerable in today’s society and they need more protection. Come on Bertie wheres that referendum!

Growth in sex offenders list must see ‘soft information’ included in vetting to protect children from paedophile predators – Neville

– Increase of 81 persons on Sex Offenders Register in last 7 months

Fine Gael Deputy Health and Children Spokesperson, Dan Neville TD, has today (Tuesday) called on the Minister for Health to ensure that procedures to vet adults who work with children can include soft information on previous suspect behaviour, as well as hard information concerning criminal convictions. Deputy Neville said that, following confirmation of increasing numbers on the sex offenders register, comprehensive procedures must be put in place in Ireland to protect children.

‘Figures released to me by the Minister for Justice show that there are now 988 persons on the sex offenders register – an increase of 81 persons in the last seven months, when there were 907 on the register last May. Since 27th September 2001 convicted sex offenders are required to notify their names and addresses to the Garda Síochána in accordance with the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001.

‘Fine Gael has called for assurances that the promised referendum on children’s rights will ensure that procedures for vetting people to work with children will able to include ‘soft information’ on suspect behaviour as well as convictions.

‘We welcome the fact that the Government is finally giving serious consideration to protecting the rights of children by way of a referendum. However, any referendum must also ensure that procedures to vet adults who work with children can include soft information on previous suspect behaviour, as well as hard information concerning criminal convictions.

‘In December 2003, my colleague Olwyn Enright TD proposed a series of measures to ensure adequate vetting of anyone working with children or vulnerable adults. These proposals outlined the need to ensure that vetting procedures take account of soft information, and provided very clear guidelines to do so. It is essential that this safeguard is put in place in order to protect the good name of people who wish to work with children, as well as ensuring that children receive the highest form of protection.

‘The Soham murderer Ian Huntley was able to work in a school in spite of the fact that he had previously been investigated on several occasions for rape and sexual assault. The lack of any conviction meant that his past history did not prevent him from working in a school environment.

‘In Northern Ireland, soft information is included as part of vetting procedures and it is imperative that we introduce a similar strict policy in this part of the island.

‘If the Government is as committed to protecting the rights of children as it claims, it must ensure that the promised referendum addresses any constitutional issues arising from the use of soft information. Protecting children from becoming the prey of paedophiles is too important to wait.’

PQ

Ref No: 39278/06 Written

Question No: 178

Dáil Question addressed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell by Deputy Dan Neville

* To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who are on the Sex Offenders Register.
– Dan Neville T.D.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that 988 persons were subject to the notification requirements of Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001, as of 20 November, 2006.

ALTERNATIVE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE INITIATIVE IN RESPONSE TO STATE’S HANDLING OF ‘CC’ CASE

PRESS STATEMENT BY ENDA KENNY TD AND PAT RABBITTE TD

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Independent investigation and Terms of Reference for
All Party Committee

The leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour party have set out their proposals for a comprehensive response to the crisis in the criminal justice system caused by the Government’s handling of the ‘CC’ case which led to the temporary release of ‘Mr A’ – a self-confessed child rapist.

The two leaders have jointly:
· Proposed the establishment of an independent investigation under the Commission of Investigations Act 2004 to determine the facts of what went wrong in the handling of the ‘CC’ case by the State’s legal offices and relevant government departments. (See Appendix 1)
· Proposed that consideration of the Commission’s report should be part of the Terms of Reference of the proposed All Party Committee on Child Protection.
· Published their proposed Terms of Reference for the All Party Committee on Child Protection.
· Written to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to ask for information on cases in the judicial system which may have to be dropped because of the ‘CC’ judgment.

Commission of Investigation
In a joint statement today, Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte said the government’s approach of merely having a review of procedures in the Office of the Attorney General by a civil servant from the Department of Finance was totally inadequate.
Pat Rabbitte and Enda Kenny said: ‘The objectives and terms of reference of the government’s review of the ‘CC’ case are too limited and it is essentially an internal review.’

‘Any proper investigation must be about more than just procedures. It must establish the facts of what exactly went wrong in the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Justice, as well as at Cabinet level. It must tell us who knew what in those offices, who did what or who failed to act appropriately and, in that way, assist the public in making an informed judgment as to whether or not there were any failures of political responsibility. This includes establishing why the management procedures set out for the A-G’s Office following the Father Brendan Smyth case in 1994 were not followed in the ‘CC’ case’, the two leaders said.

Report to the All Party Committee
The two parties propose that the report of the Commission of Investigation should be referred to the planned All Party Committee on Child Protection for its consideration.

The leaders said: ‘We need to make the people responsible for the ‘CC’ shambles accountable for their actions and that needs to be done in an open, transparent and democratically accountable manner. There must be no question of a smokescreen or cover-up for these serious failures in the administration and oversight of our criminal justice system, particularly as it affects the safety of our children. We want the All Party Committee to be directly involved in considering the outcome of the investigation. It is entirely legitimate and necessary to investigate what went wrong and to make appropriate recommendations while debating the substantive issues.’

Terms of Reference
Labour and Fine Gael have also published their detailed proposals for the terms of reference of the All Party Committee. (See Appendix 2)

The key issues covered by the terms of reference include:
· To review the substantive criminal law relating to sexual offences against children.
· To review the law in relation to child protection.
· To examine the issues relating to the age of consent in relation to sexual offences
· To examine court procedures in relation to child sexual abuse cases.
· To consider the implications arising from the Supreme Court decision of 23rd May 2006 in the ‘CC’ case including the desirability or otherwise of a constitutional amendment in relation to the outcome of that case.
· To receive and consider the report of the Commission of Investigation established under the Commission of Investigations Act 2004.

Letter to DPP
The two leaders also announced that they have written a joint letter to the DPP seeking information on the number of cases which have been dropped or may have to be dropped arising from the Supreme Court decision on ‘CC’. (See Appendix 3)

‘On seven separate occasions we have asked the government in the Dáil to provide this information but they have failed to do so. While there has been considerable coverage of the 18 cases of men in prison who might have been released on foot of the ‘CC’ judgment, there has been no information forthcoming about cases which were in the system but may now fall because of the Supreme Court judgment.’

‘ The public are entitled to know if any more child rapists are to walk free as a result of the ‘CC’ decision. In order to get this information, we have taken the unprecedented step of making a request directly to the DPP who is in possession of this information.’

Conclusion
‘Never again must our children be jeopardised by slow or inadequate procedures in any of the government offices responsible for their well-being, whether it be the office of Taoiseach, the office of the Attorney General or the Department of Justice. It is time to put children back at the forefront of this debate’, Pat Rabbitte and Enda Kenny said.

– ends –

Appendix 1

Information Note on Commissions of Investigation

The Commissions of Investigation Act was introduced in 2004 by the current Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell.

It was designed to provide a more effective and cost effective mechanism for inquiring into matters of public interest than Tribunals of Inquiry established under the 1921 Act.

Under Section 3-(1) of the Act a commission may be established to
investigate any matter considered by the Government to be of significant public concern, and make any reports required under this Act in relation to its investigation.

One commission has already been established with Mr. Patrick McEntee SC as its sole member.

Appendix 2

Terms of Reference proposed jointly by Fine Gael and Labour
for an All Party Committee on Child Protection

1. Review of the substantive law and related issues.
· To review the substantive criminal law relating to sexual offences against children.
· To review the law in relation to child protection.
· To examine the issues relating to the age of consent in relation to sexual offences.
· To examine court procedures in relation to child sexual abuse cases
· To consider the implications arising from the Supreme Court decision of 23rd May 2006 in the ‘CC’ case including the desirability or otherwise of a constitutional amendment in relation to the outcome of that case.

2. Independent investigation
· To receive and consider the report of the independent Commission of Investigation into the handling of the ‘CC’ case by the State’s legal offices as well as related government departments.

3. Timelines
· The Committee to present its overall report to the Oireachtas no later than the end of this year with the presentation of an interim report before the resumption of the Dáil at the end of September.

Appendix 3

Text of joint letter from the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party to the Director of Public Prosecutions

23rd June 2006

Dear Director,
As you no doubt are aware, there has been considerable public disquiet about the implications of the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case CC –v- Ireland, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions of the 23rd of May 2006.

The potential implications of that Judgment in cases where child sex offenders were serving sentences after convictions secured under the impugned Sections 1 (1) or 2 (1) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1935, were well illustrated by the “Mr. A” Case.

The decision of the Supreme Court on the 2nd of June 2006 to return “Mr. A” to prison has allayed some of the public’s legitimate concern – at least in the case of convicted persons.

However, there is also a deep concern surrounding the implications of the CC Judgment for cases which were pending before the Criminal Courts on the 23rd of May 2006 and where a charge under the struck down Sections of the 1935 Act was included in the Indictment.

On seven separate occasions we have made efforts in the Dáil to elicit from the Government the number of cases which may be so affected. However, the relevant information has not been forthcoming.

We, therefore, in the public interest, are taking the unusual step of writing directly to you to seek information of the number of pending prosecutions, as of the 23rd of May 2006 in which charges had been preferred under either Sections 1 (1) or 2 (1) of the 1935 Act.

We understand that you cannot give details of specific cases or speculate as to whether other charges could be brought. We are simply, in the public interest, bearing in mind the serious child protection issues involved, attempting to establish the scale of the difficulties that arise.

Your assistance in this matter would be appreciated.

Yours faithfully,

Enda Kenny, Leader of Fine Gael
Pat Rabbitte, Leader of the Labour Party.

Bebo Profile – excellent idea




I was just looking at the bebo homepage and i noticed the first link. Its a NSPCC and Childline profile on sexual abuse. I think its a fantastic idea and well done to bebo for facillitating it as it makes people more aware of the work done by the NSPCC and Childine two excellent services to children!

Check it out http://donthideit.bebo.com

Did you know sexual abuse isn’t just when you’re forced to have sex? It can be when you’re touched in a way you don’t like or when you’re made to look at sexual pictures or videos. In fact it’s anything sexual that makes you feel uncomfortable and which you think is wrong.

It can happen anywhere, to anyone, even those you least expect. The chances are it will never happen to you, but if it does, you’re not alone. There’s no need to put on a brave face. You don’t need to hide it any more.