Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Kathleen Funchion TD, has echoed calls for a full investigation by HIQA and Tulsa into allegations contained in a new report showing older men are targeting vulnerable young girls in state care homes.
Speaking this morning, Teachta Funchion said:
“Findings gathered in Protecting Against Predators, a UCD policy-commissioned report, are extremely disturbing.
“It is totally unacceptable that children as young as 12 are being targeted by organised criminal gangs of older men intent on causing harm and committing crimes.
“Dr Mary Canning, co-author of the report, describes the findings as ‘harrowing’, I would echo that. I am alarmed at serious concerns in the levels of targeting, grooming and sexual exploitation of children. It is difficult to hear.
“I am concerned that people working in these settings feel they are faced with an incredible challenge in dealing with these situations – and the concerns raised around inadequate training to deal with these issues, given their criminal nature.
“Children in State care deserve to be protected from this criminality and kept safe so that they can have a better and brighter future full of potential. We cannot allow children to be at the mercy of these criminals to ruin their childhoods and their futures.
“They are among the most vulnerable children in our society, to learn of the potential scale of grooming and sexual exploitation by older men in care homes is outrageous and must end.
“I am calling on the government to immediately commission a thorough investigation into these serious allegations.
“Any investigation must include the Gardai, HIQA and Tulsa, examine the role these agencies play in supporting staff and provide a full picture of the prevalence and extent of this criminal activity.
“Crucially, it must also examine the supports that staff need to stop this practice, and to ascertain whether the training they are provided with is adequate to deal with this ominous threat.
“We need to be proactive to this issue and target resources to the supports needed to ensure these young girls are not led into a life of sexual exploitation.
“I will also be writing to the Minister today, in support of calls for a national policy response from government and that the recommendations of the report are taken seriously.”