Child law czar: No ambivalence on drink sponsors in sport

Geoffrey Shannon

The government-appointed expert on child law has warned there can be no ambivalence over alcohol advertising and sponsorship of sports events, even if it means “tough decisions” have to be made.

Geoffrey Shannon, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, outlined his views as he appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children regarding his most recent report.

That report claims there should be a complete overhaul of the Child Care Act, one of the main statutes underpinning child law for the past two decades, as well as calling for changes to how children in Direct Provision are treated and greater measures on internet safety.

Yesterday, Mr Shannon expanded on many of those themes and said much progress had been made in recent years, with more changes likely due to recently published bills, such as the recently published Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill.

However, there have been claims that the Government might “water down” proposals aimed at limiting or banning alcohol sponsorship of cultural and sporting events and on alcohol advertising in general.

Asked about this by Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy, Mr Shannon said: “We cannot have an ambivalent approach to alcohol and alcohol sponsorship, particularly in the area of sport.”

He cited a number of previous reports, including one into the deaths of children known to care services of which he was a co-author, as evidence of the problems alcohol abuse can create in families and for children, he said the failure on the part of society to address issues with alcohol often left the State with too much to do to repair the damage caused.

On the asylum seeker system, which he has previously criticised, he said: “These practices have the potential to become the tribunals of the future.

“It may be cost-effective [for the State] in the interim but in the long run it may end up costing the state considerably.”

He said vulnerable women and children were often living alongside other people who, in other sectors of society, would be subject to garda vetting.

Mr Shannon also said he would welcome the idea of an “implementation committee” regarding proposals made in his various reports.

He also said there needed to be better protocol and greater transparency over how they are used when it came to gardaí using emergency powers under Section 12 of the Child Care Act to remove children from their families.


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