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ON December 18, the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN), following a survey of 630 primary schools, said that 80% of school principals have “deep-rooted concerns in relation to child protection in primary schools in Ireland”.
This is an alarming, unacceptable and very dangerous situation. School principals themselves are the designated liaison persons for the implementation of child protection policies and procedures in schools. They also sit on boards of management with which they are obliged to raise all such concerns.
The question must now be urgently posed: if 80% of primary school principals have “deep-rooted concerns”, what are they doing about it as a matter of the gravest import? Are the members of IPPN in effect telling the public that they have not been doing their jobs?
It would appear from these IPPN comments that Irish children are still very much at risk in our schools.
Such an appalling scenario, in the wake of the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports, raises the imperative need for a wideranging and soul-searchingly honest debate on every aspect of child protection and safety in this country. The opposition are breaking the ground here. Alan Shatter TD, in particular, is making a great deal of sense on these matters and has raised vital concerns in the Dáil on issues pertaining to child protection.
For example, he drew attention to the telling fact that the Government was unaware of how many children died in state care in the past six years.
Could Minister for Children Barry Andrews explain why his department is now engaged in a third attempt to gather information from the Catholic church on child protection, while showing no sign of having done anything with the two previous audits?
I ask Minister Andrews to state unequivocally that he has full confidence in the integrity of state files in order to allay any suspicions that this third attempt is merely an exercise to distract the public from a government department being in as much disarray regarding the safeguarding of children as the Catholic church has been previously.
The ministers for children, education and health now have an obligation to conduct a rigorous audit of every body and organisation, religious and non-religious, in terms of the safety of children and young people and publish the findings as soon as possible. Every citizen in a republic must be instrumental in making those with responsibility in every walk of life collectively accountable for the safety of children throughout every sector of Irish society.
This issue is too important for cynical and opportunistic posturing.
There is no excuse for Irish children to be in continued danger in any school or system whatsoever.
It is time for the collective responsibility and accountability called for by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to be applied not only in the church but in government, health, education, sport and wherever else the welfare of the young could be adversely affected.
Fr Patrick McCafferty
52 Lr Rathmines Road
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