Around six out of 10 adults would feel nervous or unsure about, or would not report, a suspected case of child abuse or neglect.
A leading children’s charity warned that society has “a duty of care” to youngsters after a survey showed concerned people in the west of Ireland do not know who to turn to.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) found that 87% of people believe not enough information is available about child protection and welfare.
Caroline O’Sullivan, director of services with the ISPCC, said: “In society, we all have a duty of care to children. Children must come first.
“Historically, Ireland has failed to protect many vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.
“We must now develop as a society that does not tolerate the abuse of children and takes action when required to ensure their protection.”
The ISPCC said such abuse still takes place every day in Ireland, with recent high-profile child abuse court cases, including the jailing of a woman for neglecting her five children, proving that youngsters are still vulnerable.
Its survey of 385 residents in the west of Ireland revealed 57% would feel nervous or unsure about or would not report a suspected case of child abuse or neglect.
Another 83% believe children’s rights are not protected in the same way as adults’ are.
Ms O’Sullivan said volunteers often hear from people worried about children in their extended family or local community but are unsure about who to turn to.
“The main thing is that they speak to someone, whether it be the ISPCC or a local social worker about these concerns,” she added.
“The safety of the child should always be the main consideration.”
The ISPCC support line is open Monday to Friday on 01 676 7960.