Sinn Féin Education spokesperson and TD for Cork South-Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the Minister for Communications to progress the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill of 2017 in the interest of Child Protection
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“It is two years since the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill passed Second Stage in the Dáil, but since then it has sat on the Minister for Communications shelf gathering dust.
“Online safety for children has been branded the child protection issue of our time by bodies such as the ISPCC, the Ombudsman for Children, and Ireland’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection.
“To date the Government have been very slow to act on this issue; this despite some very positive soundings from Minister Bruton in recent months.
“I understand the publication of the Heads of an Online Safety Bill is imminent, and I would welcome that that step has been taken.
“However, it is apparent that the Government would not have moved in this direction except for the passing of the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill which I proposed, and because of the pressure of organisation such as the ISPCC and Cybersafe Ireland.
“Publishing a Bill of this kind weeks before an election is far too late. My Digital Safety Commissioner Bill is already passed second stage, and has the support of the Communications Committee but is being blocked by Government.
“The Minister, in not progressing my Bill, and proceeding with his own, is in effect resetting the clock on an issue that is time sensitive.
“The reality is that we face into an election in the coming weeks, and that any new Bill will fall on the conclusion of this Government.
“Given my own Bill has already begun the process of going through the relevant stages I think it is both practical and efficient to proceed with it.
“I have offered to meet with the Minister to discuss this issue, an offer which has yet to be taken up, but I am happy to meet with him in the coming weeks.
“I acknowledge that the Bill as it stands is not perfect, nor is it a panacea, but it will go a significant way in addressing the concerns of child protection experts in the area.
“I am also open to discussing any amendments that will improve the Bill.
“I believe it is essential that the Minister progresses this Bill as a matter of urgency in the interests of creating a more positive online sphere, and in particular provide protection for children.”