Concern over State agencies' response to child abuse allegations

The prospect of an inquiry has been raised into how State agencies have responded to initial fears and allegations of child sex abuse in the south-west region of the country.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Slow progress in implementing reforms to protect children and investigate child sex abuse was an issue raised in the aftermath of several arrests this week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked about concerns that a State worker made their fears known about allegations in the south-west region.

There now may need to be an inquiry, warned Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

“Reports indicate that up to 20 children have been identified as victims of alleged sexual abuse,” he said.

“Concern has also arisen on the urgency of the response of State agencies when allegations first came to light.

“This could, in itself, lead to an inquiry as to whether every possible measure was taken to ensure the safety of the children immediately at risk when it became known that they were at risk.

“Apparently, such concerns have been expressed formally by a State employee who works in the welfare sector.

“There is an enormous level of concern locally about this as well as enormous public concern more generally.”

The lack of action around child protection was highlighted in a recent garda inspectorate report, Mr Martin told the Taoiseach, and this included the failure to provide child advocacy centres and train up gardaí.

Mr Varadkar said that crimes of a sexual nature were among the most heinous crimes and crimes against children were the worst crimes imaginable. New laws to target child sexual grooming and measures to train gardaí were ongoing, he said, adding: “We also acknowledged, however, that there are shortcomings which remain.

“We will work very hard with An Garda Síochána in the months and years ahead to ensure its members have the resources, technology and training they need to protect our children.”

Separately, 11 people arrested by gardaí as part of an investigation into alleged sexual exploitation of children have been released without charge.

Files will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the investigation is ongoing.

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