News & Events

Daffodil Care at the Social Care Ireland Conference 2019


Come speak to Daffodil Care at the Social Care Ireland Conference on 27/28 March 2019

If you're interested in developing your career in social care then come talk to us. We are hiring across the organisation and have jobs at many different levels with opportunities for advancement and development within roles. We are particularly interested in speaking to senior Leaders and Managers in the Munster region.

We're a pretty fab organisation so do get in touch. 

More details available here

Daffodil Care at the Mid-West Careers Fair 2019



We are delighted to be attending the Mid-West Careers Fair taking place in South Court Hotel, Limerick on Wednesday 27 March 2019

If you're interested in a career in social care then come talk to us on the day. We are hiring across the organisation and have jobs at many different levels with opportunities for advancement and development within roles. We're a pretty fab organisation so drop in and see us on Wednesday.

More details available here

Social Care Training Ireland - September to December 2017 schedule published


Social Care Training Ireland have published their September to December 2017 training schedule to their website


They now have over 50 courses scheduled in Cork, Dublin, Carlow, Kerry, Kildare, Limerick and Galway.


September 2017

13th September: Child Protection - Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

14th September: Child Protection - Swords, Co. Dublin

14th & 15th September: First Aid Response (FAR) - Carlow Town

18th September: Understanding and Working with Attachment Issues - Limerick City

21st September: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and Self-Harm Awareness - Carlow Town

22nd September: Professional Supervision training for Social Care Leaders and Managers - Swords, Co. Dublin

22nd September: Guidance on Quality Documentation Procedures for Social Care Professionals - Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

25th September: Leadership Skills and Change Management in Social Care - Carlow Town

28th September: Understanding and Working with Attachment Issues - Swords, Co. Dublin

29th September: Professional Supervision training for Social Care Leaders and Managers - Mitchelstown, Co. Cork


October 2017

3rd October: Understanding and Working with Attachment Issues - Carlow Town

4th October: Mindfulness & Resilience - Carlow Town

5th October: Guidance on Quality Documentation Procedures for Social Care Professionals - Swords, County Dublin

6th October: Leadership Skills and Change Management in Social Care - Galway City

9th October: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and Self-Harm Awareness - Mitchelstown, County Cork

9th October: Child Protection - Carlow Town

13th October: Child Protection - Limerick City

16th October: Alcohol and Drug Awareness - Carlow Town

17th & 18th October: First Aid Response (FAR) -Swords, County Dublin

19th October: Promoting Effective Practice to Reduce and Respond to Bullying - Carlow Town

23rd October: Professional Supervision training for Social Care Leaders and Managers - Limerick City

24th October: Understanding and Working with Attachment Issues - Mitchelstown, County Cork

30th October: Professional Supervision training for Social Care Leaders and Managers - Carlow Town

31st October: Conflict Resolution - Carlow Town


November 2017

1st November: Manual Handling and Workplace Safety - Naas, County Kildare

1st November: Manual Handling and People Moving - Naas, County Kildare

1st November: Child Protection -Killarney, County Kerry

2nd November: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and Self-Harm Awareness - Swords, County Dublin

7th November: Auditing of Residential Care Services - Carlow Town

8th November: Child Protection - Oranmore, County Galway

9th November: Professional Supervision training for Social Care Leaders and Managers - Oranmore, County Galway

14th November: Working with Bereavement, Separation, Loss and Trauma - Carlow Town

15th November: Understanding and Working with Attachment Issues - Killarney, County Kerry

16th & 17th November: First Aid Response (FAR) - Mitchelstown, County Cork

21st November: Understanding and Working with Attachment Issues - Galway City

23rd November: Leadership Skills and Change Management in Social Care - Mitchelstown, County Cork

24th November: Guidance on Quality Documentation Procedures for Social Care Professionals - Carlow Town

28th November: Mental Health Awareness - Mitchelstown, County Cork

30th November: Professional Supervision training for Social Care Leaders and Managers - Killarney, County Kerry


December 2017

5th December: Child Protection - Swords, County Dublin

5th December: Understanding and Working with Attachment Issues - Limerick City

6th December: Professional Supervision training for Social Care Leaders and Managers - Swords, County Dublin

6th & 7th December: First Aid Response (FAR) - Carlow Town

8th December: Person Centred Planning - Carlow Town

8th December: Social Care Risk Assessment & Management - Carlow Town

11th December: Guidance on Quality Documentation Procedures for Social Care Professionals - Swords, County Dublin

11th December: Manual Handling and Workplace Safety - Harold’s Cross, Dublin

11th December: Manual Handling and People Moving - Harold’s Cross, Dublin

12th December: Child Protection - Mitchelstown, County Cork

15th December: Professional Supervision training for Social Care Leaders and Managers - Mitchelstown, County Cork

18th December: Understanding and Working with Attachment Issues - Swords, County Dublin

18th December: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and Self-Harm - Galway City

19th December: Leadership Skills and Change Management in Social Care - Carlow Town


For more information or to book places on their courses, check out each course listed on their homepage or email

Woman had to leave refuge after husband tracked her phone


Husband had allegedly cut her with glass and burnt her with a cigarette

 A woman had to leave a domestic violence refuge after her husband tracked her there using the location of her phone, the Dublin District Family Court was told on Thursday.

In the first of a series of ex-parte applications – made with only one side present – a young woman told Judge Gerard Furlong that, in May, her husband slapped her in the face and arms, pushed her and cut her with glass. She pulled up the sleeve of her top to show the judge the scar.

In a written statement to the court, she said on a separate occasion he burnt her with a cigarette on the other arm, which she also showed the judge.

She said she left the family home in June and went to a refuge, but her husband tracked her down using the location of her phone.

An invisible app may also be placed on a person’s phone to enable information, including location, to be passed to another person

“I had to leave for my safety and for the safety of the others there,” she said.

Though not discussed in court, it is possible to track the location of a phone using certain information, such as an email address and password, provided the phone’s location services are switched on. An invisible app may also be placed on a person’s phone to enable information, including location, to be passed to another person.


The woman told the judge she had only recently found out she could come to court for protection.

She did not seek a barring order, which requires an abuser to leave the family home, as she did not want to go back there, she said. Instead she sought a protection order, a short-term order requiring her estranged husband not to use violence or threaten to use violence or put her in fear, or watch her new home. She told the judge she did not want her estranged husband to know where she was now living.

The judge said he would not include her address on the order. He said the woman should return to court in October for a full hearing of the case, when her estranged husband would also be present.

“I am frightened to see his face,” the woman said.

The judge advised her to mention that to the garda at the court reception desk and he would help her.

Barring order

Meanwhile, another woman was given an eight-day barring order against her partner after showing the judge her arms.

The mother-of-four said two days earlier her partner had slapped her in the head a few times and then later punched her in the head and arms. She raised her sleeves to show black bruises.

“I have lumps in my head as well,” she said.

There had been no argument before the violent outburst.

“I was in bed asleep when it happened . . . about 11.30pm,” she said.

She told the judge her partner used drugs and had told her in the past he would kill her and shoot her. There had been mental abuse, she said.

“But I never thought he would hit me.”

The judge granted a barring order for eight days. He advised the woman to bring the order to her local garda station and they would remove her partner from the family home.

“I don’t have to be there when they got to the house, do I?” she asked. The judge said she did not.

In a separate case, a man was granted a protection order against his wife of 28 years. He said she was an alcoholic and would come home drunk, get into the bed and dig her nails into him to wake him up. Then she would put the television on loudly.

Recently, she had put their adult son out of his room, so that she could move into it. She had also raised her arm to hit their teenage daughter, but stopped herself. He said he was worried about the teenager who was afraid of her mother.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 11th August 2017)

Customs will detain child sex dolls


Customs officers say their policy regarding child sex dolls is to detain the goods and hand them over to gardaí for investigation.

The development follows some uncertainty among authorities and legal experts as to whether or not possession, or importation, of the dolls constituted a criminal offence under Irish laws.

The legal issue was the subject of a landmark court ruling in Britain earlier this week when it was ruled the child sex dolls are regarded as obscene objects under UK Customs laws.

Following further queries from the Irish Examiner yesterday, Revenue said the Customs Act 2015 gave officers the power to detain objects like child sex dolls and pass them over to gardaí.

“This legislation gives a Customs officer dealing with any goods at import or export, powers to detain and hand them over to the Garda Síochána, or to any other relevant investigative authority, if the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect the goods may be required as evidence in any criminal proceedings,” a statement said.

On child sex dolls, Revenue also said in any case where a child sex doll or other material relating to paedophilia is found by Customs, its policy is to detain the goods under the provisions detailed above and deliver the goods to An Garda Síochána.

It said any investigation or prosecution would be a matter for gardaí and that, if a prosecution was taken, it would be up to the courts to “ultimately determine whether or not a criminal offence has been committed”.

Gardaí had told the Irish Examiner on Wednesday they believed the dolls, child-like in appearance, weight, and anatomy were covered by the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.

“Our legislation appears to be wide enough,” said Chief Supt Michael Daly of the National Protective Services Bureau said. “It does seem to fall within child pornography laws.”

But he said he was referring the matter to the Garda Legal Section for advice and stressed the issue “has not been tested in court”.

Revenue Customs also, midweek, said prohibited items, including obscene material, may be seized by customs and added: “Depending on the facts and circumstances, possession of dolls of the type referred to may constitute an offence under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.”

The Department of Justice said there were no current plans to amend the definition of child pornography further but that “issues such as this are kept under continuing review”.

Professor of law at the University of Limerick, Shane Kilcommins, said he believed any prosecution “would be contested in court” and it would be “difficult to prove”.

He said the 1998 Act was “broad” and child pornography was defined as “any visual representation” whose dominant characteristic is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of the genital or anal region of a child.

He said this could arguably include 3D representations like child sex dolls, but added: “The prosecution would have to prove that the dominant purpose of the doll is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of the genital or anal region of a child.

“A defendant might argue that the doll does not depict a child, or that a doll does not equate with a child for the purposes of the legislation.”

Customs would not say if they had detained a child sex doll, to date, but Chief Supt Daly said gardaí had “not come across them yet”.

He said there was “no doubt” they will come to Ireland and may already have been imported.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 4th August 2017)

Children with muscular dystrophy will not get new drug


HSE decides against approving Translarna for reimbursement under drugs schemes

A new treatment for children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy will not be made available in the Republic, the Health Service Executive has decided.

Muscular Dystrophy Ireland (MDI) says the HSE has informed it that the treatment, Translarna, will not be approved for reimbursement under its drugs schemes.

This is in spite of the fact that the drug is available in Northern Ireland and 22 European countries.

Families of children with Duchenne’s have been campaigning for the past two years for it to be approved.

Translarna is used to treat boys with a particular type of Duchenne’s, whose condition is caused by a particular genetic defect and who are aged five years and older and able to walk.

It is estimated about five boys a year would have been eligible for the drug if it had been approved.

MDI described the news as very disappointing. “It’s like being hit by a brick wall. We’ve been round the houses on this over the past few years,” said Lisa Fenwick, a family support worker with the charity.

Last year, the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE) found the drug would not be cost effective, given the annual cost of about €411,000 a patient. The NCPE estimated the five-year cost of the drug at €5.8 million.

The HSE subsequently entered into talks with the manufacturer, PTC Therapeutics International Ltd, but these failed to result in a price acceptable to the State health body.

Genetic cause

Translarna, which is approved by the European Medicines Agency, is the first drug to deal with the underlying genetic cause of this type of the disease, which causes muscle degeneration.

In a statement on Tuesday, the HSE confirmed it “has written to the manufacturer of Ataluren [Translarna] advising them that the HSE will not be funding this drug”.

“The HSE is very much aware that this decision is upsetting to patients who are affected by this condition. It will also be a disappointment to their families and the treating clinicians who support these patients. However, it is of the utmost importance to recognise that the HSE Drugs Group who reviewed the effectiveness of the drug did not consider the evidence for the clinical benefit of Ataluren [Translarna] to be sufficiently strong in the context of the proposed cost and budget impact.

“There is an onus on the HSE to ensure that any new drug is cost effective. New drugs can provide improvements in quality of life, but may not provide a cure. Nevertheless, the prices sought by drug companies for such products can run to hundreds of thousands of euro per patient per annum. The HSE must have regard to its wider obligations to the 4.7 million population it serves and needs to maintain the full range of health services to all of the other patient groups within the finite resources at its disposal.”


Last week, the HSE approved nine new treatments for other conditions following months of controversy over delays in the approval process. The health service lacks money to fund the high cost of new treatments, particularly after the Government approved new cystic fibrosis drugs costing over €700 million earlier this year.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is one of more than 30 types of muscular dystrophy and affects about one in 3,500 male births.

MDI said the treatment would make a huge difference in slowing the progression of the condition and in keeping young patients on their feet for longer and out of a wheelchair.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 2nd August 2017)

Mother and children waited months to be rehoused after domestic abuse


The Ombudsman for Children is calling on the Government to re-double its effort to generate sufficient suitable social housing for families.


The calls come following an investigation by the ombudsman into a case where a mother and her children waited almost two years to be rehoused after becoming homeless due to domestic violence.


The ombudsman launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from a mother who was unhappy with the delay in securing her family a home and the quality of emergency accommodation she and her children were placed in.


The woman and her children, who ranged in ages from five to 17, had spent three months in a women's refuge and a year-and-a-half in a number of hotels and B&Bs.


A report by the ombudsman, which was published today, concluded that the children were without a stable home for 20 months due to a number of issues.


It said the council that was dealing with the woman's housing application had referred them to the wrong housing support service for assessment.


The report concluded that much of what the family had to go through in trying to access social housing had adverse affects on the children.


It issued a number of recommendations, including that a review of the application procedures for families who have experienced domestic violence be carried out to ensure that children's best interests are prioritised.


(Published by on the 24th July 2017)

Government approves ‘opt-out’ system for organ donation


Harris says the measure has potential to transform organ donation in the State

The Government has approved the creation of an opt-out system for organ donation.

Minister for Health Simon Harris brought a memo to the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday seeking consent to draft the general scheme of a Human Tissue Bill which seeks to increase the number of organs made available to doctors.

The aim of the legislation is to regulate the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from deceased persons.

The opt-out clause will mean that families retain the right to intervene and stop the organs of their loved ones being donated.

Mr Harris said the measure has the potential to transform organ donation in the State.

“This has been long-talked about in this country and today we take a step closer to it becoming a reality,” he said.

“An opt-out system of consent for organ donation and accompanying publicity campaign will raise awareness among individuals and encourage discussion among families of their intentions in relation to organ donation.

“In this way individuals can increase the chances that their organs might be utilised after their death, and can ensure that those left behind will have the satisfaction of knowing that their wishes were carried through.”

Such a system has been promised for several years. The decision by Cabinet is the first legislative step in the process.

Mr Harris has requested a period of consultation before drafting the heads of the Bill for Cabinet in the autumn.

The Human Tissue Bill will also ensure no hospital post-mortem examination can be carried out and no tissue retained without authorisation.

This was a recommendation made by Dr Deirdre Madden in a report presented to former minister for health Mary Harney in 2005.

The proposed Bill by Mr Harris will ensure such proposals are placed on a statutory basis.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 11th July 2017)

Ireland is failing trafficking survivors, claims report


This country is deficient when it comes to supporting victims of human trafficking, with a report claiming Ireland is still a destination and source country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, including forced criminal activity.

The annual Trafficking in Persons Report 2016, by the US State Department, noted while 90 new trafficking-related cases were opened here last year, in line with figures for recent years, a conviction for trafficking has not been secured since 2013.

According to the report, of last year’s cases, 61 involved sexual exploitation, 17 involved labour exploitation, four were forced criminality, two were for both sexual and labour exploitation, and six were uncategorised.

It said gardaí have continued pretrial reviews of at least 13 cases for possible trafficking indicators related to cannabis sector arrests, while nine people were prosecuted last year for human trafficking crimes — “a significant increase from previous reporting periods (zero prosecutions in 2015; one prosecution in 2014; two prosecutions in 2013)”.

There were 29 trafficking cases pending prosecution, 18 of which were new suspected trafficking cases.

Last year, 95 suspected trafficking victims were identified, compared with 78 in 2015 and 46 in 2014. Of those, 52 were exploited in sex trafficking, 38 in labour trafficking, one in both sex and labour trafficking, and four in forced criminality in the selling of heroin; 50 were female and 45 were male, with the increase in men driven by one case involving 23 Romanian male victims.

The victims included 39 Romanians, 19 Irish children, and 10 from Nigeria, with the rest coming from Eastern Europe, Africa, South Asia, and South America.

The report noted: “Experts raised concerns about the Government’s ability and efficiency to identify human trafficking victims and its efficiency in doing so.

“Although the Government meets the minimum standards, it has not obtained a trafficking conviction since 2013, and had deficiencies in certain areas of victim identification, suitable housing for victims that prevent retraumatisation, and viable avenues for victim compensation.”

It found that Ireland is one country listed as a destination for Hungarian women and children subjected to sex trafficking and domestic labour. It said Latvian women have been recruited for brokered marriages in Western Europe, “particularly Ireland”, where they are vulnerable to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and forced labour.

Some Lithuanian men are subjected to forced labour, including in agriculture, in countries including Ireland, with Slovak women also trafficked here for sexual exploitation.

The report noted shortcomings, such as a lack of specialised services in the centres for female victims who have been traumatised due to psychological, physical, or sexual violence.

Last year two trafficking victims were granted a 60-day period of recovery and reflection, while seven were granted a six-month temporary residence permit, and three suspected victims were granted a change of status in immigration.


(Published by Irish Examiner on the 28th June 2017)

Children must play ‘central role’ in State’s refugee policy


Direct provision ‘entirely unsuitable’ for children, says Irish Refugee Council

Governments have been urged to allow the voices of children forced to leave their home countries and seek asylum abroad to play “a central role in informing policies” that affect refugees’ lives.

Charities in Ireland and abroad marked World Refugee Day on Tuesday by calling on governments to make a greater effort to speed up refugee resettlement programmes and provide more legal options for family reunification across the EU.

Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh from UCD called on governments and policymakers to pay more attention to the voices and experiences of refugee children. She said they should have “a central and active role in informing policies that directly affect their lives, rights and wellbeing”.

Chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council Nick Henderson welcomed the Government’s decision to voluntarily opt into the EU’s relocation scheme and commended the Defence Forces for their role in saving lives in the Mediterranean.

However, he warned the State had a “mixed” record in providing for children seeking protection and said direct provision centres were “entirely unsuitable” homes for young people.



“Refugee children and young people are often portrayed as vulnerable, but their experiences and identities are rooted in resilience, strength and courage,” he said.

Fiona Finn from Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Network, said world refugee week should highlight the anguish suffered by millions of families separated by conflict. She called on the Government to reassess the International Protection Act 2015 which reduced the possibility of family reunification for many.

A total of 1,238 refugees have arrived in Ireland since the Irish Refugee Protection Programme was announced in September 2015. The Government has committed to welcoming a total of 4,000 refugees into the country by the end of this year.

A record 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2016, driven in large part by conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen as well as in sub-Saharan Africa nations including Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Sudan.

More than half of refugees last year were made up of children under 18 years, while 20 people were displaced every minute, according to the UN Refugee Agency’s Global Trends report.


Displaced by war

Speaking on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned that turning our backs on people displaced by war, persecution and violence would only lead to “barriers, alienation and despair”.

“Today we live in a world which uncertainty often abounds; economic instability, political upheaval and violence close to home can make us want to shut our eyes or close our doors. But fear and exclusion will not lead us to a better place.”

“Through UNHCR’s work we witness the courage, tenacity and brilliance of refugees every single day. Having lost their homes, their work, and sometimes their families – they don’t give up – they find a way to start again. Striving to belong, and to contribute, they reach out to their new neighbours, building connections, and creating new opportunities. Given the right environment, our experience is that refugees bring solutions, not problems.”

Mr Filippo commended the nations who had offered refugees a safe place by welcoming them into their societies and said World Refugee Day marked the importance of countering the voices that seek to exclude and marginalise refugees.


(Published by The Irish Times on the 20th June 2017)

Daffodil Care Services job bulletin


16th June 2017 jobs bulletin

Daffodil Care Services are currently hiring for the following vacancies and interviews will take place locally in June 2017:


Social Care Leader- Full Time- South Tipperary


Social Care Worker- Full Time- South Tipperary


Social Care Leader- Full Time- North Cork


New Service- Social Care Leader- Full Time- North Cork


New Service- Relief Social Care Worker- North Cork


Social Care Worker- Full Time- Semi Independent- North Dublin


What Daffodil Care Services can offer you:

- Competitive remuneration and staff benefits package

- Strong career progression opportunities

- Continuous professional training and development


Locations in Cork, Tipperary, Dublin, Wexford, Meath and Kildare


To apply please send your CV to or call Niamh on 0818 903 984 for further information or view our website


Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse to cost €90 million


Chairman Mr Justice Sean Ryan tells describes ‘long, difficult and costly’ inquiry

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse will cost €90 million in legal expenses, Mr Justice Sean Ryan has said.

Speaking at the World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights in Dublin, the president of the Court of Appeal, who chaired the commission, said the legacy of damage, mostly psychological, had been inherited by later generations.

They “suffered at the hands of vulnerable adults who were previously vulnerable children who were damaged in institutions”, he said.

“One hopes that the impact will be diluted and the toxicity lessoned, because of better understanding.”

The judge said the consequences for the State were also significant, in reputation and expense.

“The scheme of redress for those who were injured or damaged in institutions has cost some €1.5 billion to date, but the price of abuse is very high and is long term,” he said.


‘Still news’

Mr Justice Ryan told delegates though the report, which examined abuse in industrial schools and reformatories, was published on May 20th, 2009, it was “amazingly still news”.

He said controversy about the contribution the religious orders agreed to provide to the redress scheme resurfaced at “every new revelation of religious exploitation or oppression”.

“Just last month, a member of the Oblates order, anonymous, didn’t need to be anonymous, issued a public statement in defence of the congregation’s failure to pay up a bigger share of the redress Bill,” he said.

“That order ran the reformatory at Daingean in the Irish Midlands ... a horrible place that was condemned in 1970.”

He said on a typical night in St Conleth’s Reformatory School, in Daingean, Co Offaly, a small group of teenagers would be lined up in a cold stone building at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the dormitories, to be flogged.

The boys were dressed in flimsy night shirts “that were pulled up to expose their buttocks for lashing with leather, in some circumstances they might be entirely naked”.



“The shrieking of the boys as they were being punished echoed through the building with a frightening effect on the others who were asleep in the dormitories,” he said.

“On one occasion, the screams also interrupted the nightly prayers of the father principal, who years later told the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse that he remembered thinking at the time, ‘what would Christ think?.”

Mr Justice Ryan addressed the congress on the last day of its four-day event in the Convention Centre in Dublin. There were 150 speakers, and more than 600 delegates attended, including a large number from Australia, where the congress was founded.

He told delegates the inquiry, which he chaired following the departure of Justice Mary Laffoy, was “long, difficult and costly”.

It investigated all institutions in which there were 20 or more complainants. The legal team interviewed all former residents who hadn’t been called to give evidence at the formal hearings and the commission uncovered physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse.

Mr Justice Ryan praised the late Mary Raftery, a journalist whose “extensive legacy” included television programmes in the 1990s on abuse in institutions, such as Dear Daughter.

“Modern Ireland owes a real debt to this courageous spokesperson for many victims of abuse of power,” he said.


Formidable list

He also said the mandate of the commission was to investigate whether abuse happened, what kind of abuse happened, why it happened, how it happened and how much of it there was.

“That is a formidable list of tasks for an investigation, I’m not sure that we could realistically claim that we fulfilled that mandate,” he said.

He told delegates the biggest complaints the commission got were “not really about the severity of the punishment, but about capricious and unjust punishment”.

“The real thing that sowed bitterness in people’s lives and had them complaining severely was injustice,” he said.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 7th June 2017)

4,000 child abuses reported last year


There were more than 180 disclosures of physical and sexual abuse of children and 18 cases of child abduction reported to Women’s Aid last year.

The agency said more than 3,500 cases of emotional abuse of children were disclosed to them in 2016.

Children were slapped, punched, shouted at, called names, and even told they would be killed alongside their mothers. They also witnessed appalling violence, including their mothers being beaten or even raped.

The findings are contained in the ‘Women’s Aid Impact Report 2016’, being launched today by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.

Of the 3,823 disclosures of child abuse:

  • 3,558 were of emotional abuse;
  • 136 of physical abuse; and
  • 47 cases of sexual abuse.

The report said there were “strong links” between child abuse and domestic violence and called for greater recognition of the risk to children, particularly during access arrangements.

It documented 82 disclosures of where children were abused during access visits.

“Domestic violence continues to be a very common context in which children experience abuse, with the abuser of the mother being the abuser of the children,” said the report.

“It has also been found that the more severe the domestic violence, the more severe the abuse of children.”

It said children were also witnessing violence perpetrated on their mother.

“Many children have witnessed their mother being shouted at, threatened, physically assaulted and at times have seen their mother being raped,” said the report.

“Where they have not directly seen the abuse occurring, they may have overheard abusive incidents, or seen the aftermath of it such as bruises, broken bones, damaged furniture and belongings.”

The report said they received almost 17,000 disclosures of domestic violence against women in 2016.

This included more than 11,000 cases of emotional abuse, 3,500 cases of physical abuse, almost 700 cases of sexual abuse, and 1,670 cases of financial abuse.

The figures follow revelations that the Central Statistics Office could not stand over garda domestic violence figures after conducting an analysis covering six years.

As reported in the Irish Examiner at the weekend, the CSO found the Garda data was “not sufficiently robust” to be published.

It said that until measures were taken by Garda HQ it would not be in a position to publish them.

Commenting, Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin said: “In 2014, the Garda Inspectorate report identified domestic violence as a high volume crime and it is clear that it has been under-recorded for many years.

“There is a growing recognition that previous data collection systems are not fit for purpose and it is vital that this work is properly resourced so that we have robust, accurate and useful data on domestic violence in Ireland.”


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 17th May 2017)

Zappone promises more resources for teenagers leaving care


Funding secured to recruit 18 aftercare managers, says Minister for Children

The State will have a statutory obligation to provide an aftercare plan from September 1st for up to 600 teenagers leaving care every year, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has told the Dáil.

Ms Zappone told Fianna Fáil’s spokeswoman on children, Anne Rabbitte, that there were pending amendments to the Child Care Act 1991 that would place a statutory obligation to provide an aftercare plan before the young person leaves care.

“I have secured the funding needed to recruit additional aftercare workers to enable Tusla to deliver this new commitment in full,” she said.

The Minister added that “in some situations the child’s social worker may continue in the role of an aftercare worker when the child reaches 18 years”.

She said the Department of Children was working to implement the changes needed. “There is no doubt that improvements are needed and I intend to ensure that they happen.”

Social worker

Ms Zappone gave figures that showed that 1,055 16 and 17 year olds are in care but only 432 have an allocated social worker.

She said that last year 605 teenagers left care because they had reached 18 years of age, but added that Tusla did not collate data on the waiting periods before an aftercare worker is assigned.

About 500 to 600 young people leave care every year and in recent times about 75 per cent of 17 year olds in care were in foster placements while a further 20 per cent were in residential settings. The remaining 5 per cent were in disability settings or supported lodgings.

Ms Rabbitte welcomed the news that funding has been secured but suggested that the Minister should invest in the groups that were already there, such as Youth Advocate Programmes and Empowering People in Care (Epic).


“We know there is a shortage of social care workers and that we are struggling to recruit them but we know we have good agencies that can work with and empower young people. We do not need to reinvent the wheel.” These organisations were already on the ground, she added.

The Galway East TD said there were huge gaps and anomalies, and while she believed Tusla was doing its best to organise planning, “there is no connectivity between social care workers” and some teenagers were ending up on council housing waiting lists straight after leaving care.

Ms Zappone said she was supporting agencies such as Epic but she said that Tusla had informed her that 18 aftercare managers would be recruited. “Each manager will manage one of the 18 teams across the country.”


(Published by the Irish Times on the 12th May 2017)

Grannies and casual childminders face vetting to earn new €1,000 subsidy


Grandparents and other casual childminders face fast-track garda vetting if they want to get a new Government subsidy.

The new Affordable Childcare scheme requires background checks on childminders before they get the payments of up to €1,000 per year.

But only about 130 of the estimated 20,000 people working as childminders have been formally vetted, which is needed in order to be registered by child welfare agency Tusla.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs is now set to offer speedier background checks on any of the childminders currently not registered.

This would include relatives such as grandparents and in-laws, according to West Cork TD Jim Daly, who chairs the Government's Children and Youth Affairs committee.

Due to the sheer numbers of relatives, friends and neighbours who currently act as casual childminders, he said it could take "decades" to have them registered using the stringent standards currently used by Tusla.

These involve garda vetting and having a childcare certificate for childminders caring for more than three non-related children outside their homes.

"So you have about 18,500 or 19,000-plus childminders that are not registered with Tusla and the Government cannot be providing subsidies (to them)," he said during a panel discussion on early childhood education yesterday.

"So what the Government is proposing to do is run in tandem a sort of certification process where the Department (of Children and Youth Affairs) will oversee that any parent who wishes to apply for the subsidy can send in details of their gran, of their sister-in-law, of their neighbour who is minding their children and the Government will do a background check - obviously garda vetting - and a couple of references from local people and that will suffice," he said.

"You might have someone come in from another county, from another country or from another jurisdiction coming into the area offering their services as a childminder so you have to have a basic level of background checks and vetting and that will apply across the board. It's to recognise the existing system and bring them into the fold," he said. "But we have a responsibility - we can't just say 'no, it's fine, you're a sister-in-law'.

"There could be another adult in that house ... so we have to be responsible when we bring this in," he said.

As a result, a working group with the Department of Children is currently examining standards that will be applied.

Bernadette Orbinski Burke, CEO of Childminding Ireland who is chairing the working group, said: "We are looking at all things that would give quality assurance to the Government and parents and preserve the 'home-from-home' ethos. We're looking at a range of options that would include garda vetting."

Mr Daly said child minders need not fear any tax implications of being registered if they were not running a creche or working as a professional child minder. "There won't be tax implications for these people. At the moment you can earn up to €300 a week minding children and be tax free. So there isn't going to be automatic tax implications, that would be the first thing that people will fear in declaring that I'm minding my nephew or my neighbour's child," he added.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 10th May 2017)

Schoolgirls more at risk of being overweight than boys


Study finds 20% of children in sixth class are obese, with higher rates in disadvantaged schools

Girls in primary schools in Ireland are more at risk of being overweight or obese than boys but this gap decreases as the children get older, according to a study released yesterday by the HSE.

When first round of the HSE’s ‘Childhood Obesity Surveillance’ was undertaken in 2008, 20 per cent of girls in first class were overweight, and just 13 per cent of boys.

When the research was repeated in 2012 over 24 per cent of girls were overweight or obese, and 14 per cent of boys.

The gender gap had evened out by the time the children reached sixth class, and 22 per cent of girls were overweight compared to 18 per cent of boys.

After a period of increases the most recent HSE obesity study also found the level of childhood obesity in Ireland has stopped rising.

In 2008, 2,630 schoolchildren in first class were surveyed and it was found that 16 per cent of students were either overweight or obese.

When schoolchildren in fourth class were studied in 2012, the number of children carrying excess weight was found to have increased to 20 per cent.

The most recent review of 4,909 schoolchildren in sixth class carried out in 2015, revealed the level of obesity remained at 20 per cent of children.

The HSE ‘Childhood Obesity Surveillance’ study found children in socio economically disadvantaged DEIS schools were more likely to suffer from obesity or be overweight than those in other schools.

The latest findings of the study from 2015 found that 32 per cent of children in DEIS schools were obese or overweight, compared to 18 per cent of children in other schools.

The study also found young girls in primary schools were more at risk of being overweight or obese than boys, but that the gap decreased as the children got older. When the first round of the study was undertaken in 2008, 20 per cent of girls in first class were overweight, and just 13 per cent of boys.

When the research was repeated in 2012 over 24 per cent of girls were overweight or obese, and 14 per cent of boys. The gender gap had evened out by the time the children reached sixth class, and 22 per cent of girls were overweight compared to 18 per cent of boys.

While the research found rising obesity levels among young children may be stabilising at an average of one in five, that is still “quite a high level” Sarah O’Brien, national leader of the HSE Healthy Eating programme said.

Speaking at the launch of the report the Minister of State for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said despite the promising findings, Ireland is “still on course to become the most obese nation in Europe, unless we take action now”.

The study was conducted by the HSE and the National Nutrition Surveillance Centre in University College Dublin.

Professor Cecily Kelleher, director of the Nutritional Surveillance centre said the findings “highlight the need to address the gap between better off and less advantaged children, and to focus on interventions that appeal to both girls and boys”.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 5th May 2017)

Baby boxes introduced at Irish hospital


It's hoped that the initiative will reduce cot deaths among infants

A new initiative has been launched at Wexford General Hospital aimed at reducing and raising awareness around infant mortality.

Every baby born at the hospital will receive a Baby Box, made from durable cardboard, and come with a firm mattress, waterproof mattress cover, and fitted cotton sheet.

Replacing the need for a traditional Moses basket or cot, it is thought the small size of the Baby Box prevents babies from rolling onto their tummies, which experts think can contribute to sudden infant death syndrome.

The use of Baby Boxes, in conjunction with education initiatives, has contributed to the decrease of infant deaths, or 'cot deaths' in Finland, where they have been in use for 80 years.

As a result, Finland's infant mortality rate reduced from 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015. The Nordic country is now regarded as having one of the best maternity systems in the world.

Ireland’s infant mortality rate is currently 3.7 per 1,000 births.

The Baby Box programme will see parents who complete e-learning modules provided with a free Baby Box for their infant to sleep in. Women can sign up for the Baby Box University e-learning at their ante-natal clinic.

Educating parents on how to care for themselves and their baby during the pregnancy and after is at the centre of the Baby Box initiative," said Helen McLoughlin, CMM3, Womens and Childrens Services, Wexford General Hospital. "We are aiming to encourage every new mother to sign up to the Baby Box University and receive a free Baby Box.

"This will facilitate us in educating parents on good health in pregnancy, encourage safe sleep practice and to highlight when and where to look for help and advice."



Finland’s maternity package was introduced in 1937. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families with low incomes, but was soon rolled out to all mothers-to-be as long as they visited a doctor or prenatal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy.

Finnish parents have the option of choosing a €140 grant over the box, but nearly all take the box as its value is said to be worth far more in terms of monetary cost (around €400).

“What the box symbolises is that every child is equal and deserves an equal start in life,” says Olga Tarasalainen, a spokeswoman for Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland which distributes the boxes.

"The concept has since been trialled in Mexico and New Zealand, and a version was introduced in Scotland last month. However, Finland remains the only country to provide the package regardless of income, location or background.

“Very occasionally we hear conversations about whether the government should be spending the money giving it to every single family, but not to include families of higher wealth or to introduce a means test for the box would make the whole system redundant," she continued.

"The box is outside of class or wealth.”


(Published by Newstalk on the 25th April 2017)

We must engage with adverse effects of technology on children


Vicky Britton explores adverse effects of technology exposure on children and how health professionals are trying to grapple with a problem the extent of which is not yet known.

It’s too early to examine the long-term impact of technology on our children’s cognitive and social skills, leaving parents in the dark about how technology is changing the way children behave.

One expert in the field believes it is time for the Government to step in and regulate usage.

UCD professor Mary Aiken, advisor to the Europol European Cybercrime Centre, has researched in depth the developmental impact of technology on children — from infant to teenage years. Dr Aiken, who has advised Interpol, the FBI and the White House on cyber-criminality, believes it’s the Government’s responsibility to protect children from the harmful side effects of technology.

“The State has a duty in terms of actually reaching out, educating, informing, and ultimately protecting children,” she says.

“We need structured guidelines for how parents should introduce children to technology and how they can address negative behaviours from an informed scientific perspective.”

Quoting the Canadian forensic psychologist Michael Seto, Dr Aiken says the world is “living through one of largest unregulated social experiments of all time” with regard to technology and developmental impact.

Addiction, lack of empathy, and poor development of communication skills are just some of the side effects which children are currently at risk of due to technology overuse.

Dr Aiken believes the Government needs to invest in ongoing research and initiatives to help the current generation of children grow up safely alongside technology.

“We really need theories of stages of cyber cognitive development,” she says.

“If we think about child development in a real-world context, we have theoretical guidelines; what age a child should be crawling, picking up building blocks, etc. My argument is we don’t have equivalent guidelines in an age of technology.

“What age is it appropriate to give a tech device to a young child? The American Academy of Paediatrics doesn’t recommend exposing an infant to any screen before the age of two — an example of something not widely known by parents.

“The next step is what age should I introduce screens to my child or what age is appropriate to give a child a smartphone?”

In her book, The Cyber Effect, Dr Aiken writes how social abilities, empathy, and problem-solving have traditionally been learnt in a child’s infant years by exploring the natural environment and using imagination to spend time in unstructured creative play.

If a child is cyber-stimulated and not connecting in the real world, this may impair a child’s pre-academic skills.

Developmental delays in attention span, fine motor skills, speaking, and socialisation, along with obesity, antisocial behaviour, and tiredness were possible side effects of technology overuse reported by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in Britain.

“From an Irish point of view, instead of trying to tackle the problem when kids are 15 or 16 with aggressive law, it’s far better to consider how we engage with technology from birth,” says Dr Aiken.

“If you were to ask the average teacher or parent, could you advise your 13-year-old of the potential they may have to cross a line in terms of being technically curious online and in terms of breaking the law? I can guarantee that most teachers and parents would not be able to sufficiently advise or educate their kids in this regard.”

Actions to limit children’s screen-time have been taken in countries such as Canada, France, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. Under a new law in Taiwan, excess screen time is now considered to be the equivalent of smoking, drinking, and drugs. In China, parents can send their children to military-style bootcamps to wean them off their internet addiction.

Psychotherapist and author of Cop On Colman Noctor believes we need to look at integrating technology into our lives as opposed to regulation in order to encourage a positive relationship with technology.

“It’s not that you shouldn’t spend more than half an hour a day on it,” he says. ‘It’s about that it should play a certain role in your life. It could be something to complement face to face communication and not supplement it.

“If we go in and talk about online safety, online predators and a selfie-consumed culture, we’re not dealing with it. The education needs to dig deeper and start early in primary school, work its way up and become more intensive as adolescence becomes more complex.”

Ian Power, head of — Ireland’s youth information website — feels that balance is key. He believes online forums can be a useful outlet for children who are too afraid to speak out.

“As we’re growing up, maybe we don’t realise that an issue that could be bothering us could also be affecting and widely experienced by other young people,” he says. “Often what we find is that across the shared platform a lot of people experience the same things.

“We need to remember to get into a routine of going outside, meeting people, meeting friends, and making sure there are enough things in our routine to disrupt addictive behaviour.”

(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 21st April 2017)

More than 60% of overweight children bullied


Bullying has emerged as a “very big issue” from a study of children attending a hospital-based obesity treatment programme, with 63% bullied about their weight, Evelyn Ring.


The finding is based on an analysis of the initial assessment forms of 111 children attending the family-based W82GO service at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin.


It found that 12% of the children who were bullied were missing days from school. Almost half of those teased were teased by their peers, although a small percentage (2%) were teased by strangers.


Temple Street started its obesity service for children in 2004 and the following year set up the W82GO programme that is delivered by a multidisciplinary team that includes a paediatrician, dietitian, nurse, chartered physiotherapist, and clinical psychologist.


Dr Samantha Doyle, a paediatrician and a member of the W82GO team, said their analysis revealed a high proportion of emotional and behavioural problems along with bullying.


About 5% of the children were under five years of age, and the average age at initial consultation was around 10 years.


A third (33%) of the children were experiencing emotional difficulties but just under half (46%) were linked to mental health services before starting the programme.


The initial assessment also showed that 26% had behavioural difficulties, with just over half (52%) already attending a mental health service.


Almost a third (30%) of parents said their children had learning difficulties, a figure that is well above the National Council for Special Needs Education estimated prevalence rates of 23% in 2011.


It also emerged that 15% of the children needed some intervention for development delay.


While the degree of developmental delay varied, speech and autistic spectrum disorder made up a large proportion of the difficulties.


The study, published in the latest issue of the Irish Medical Journal, points out that the findings are in contrast to the data collected by The Growing Up in Ireland study, published in 2011.


It showed that most of the nine-year-old children analysed were developing without emotional problems, with 15% to 20% in difficulty.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 14th April 2017)

Pieta House launches teen resilience initiative


Teenagers are to be trained in coping skills and how to develop inner resilience in a new six-week course offered by mental health charity Pieta House.

The course, from the Pieta House Resilience Academy, has already been successfully piloted.

It has shown positive results in helping young people develop tools to deal with upset and setbacks.

The charity said last year it provided support to over 1,000 teenagers who were in mental distress and that it has seen a big rise in the number of under-18s who were at risk of suicide or self-harm in the last five years.

RTÉ newscaster Bryan Dobson, who launched the programme, said this kind of course is welcome in light of news stories which highlight the need for better mental health among many young people.

2FM presenter Eoghan McDermott said: "Resilience is something that everyone just expects you to be able to develop by yourself.

"But most of us need a little help. And by allowing students to choose the topics most relevant to them, the Resilience Academy gives young people those vitally important tools and resources."


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 5th April 2017)

Community in shock after local disabled man 'mugged in broad daylight'


Community in shock after local disabled man 'mugged in broad daylight'

The sister of a young disabled man who was mugged in a local park has described the people who targeted him as "cowards".

Eoin Harte, who is from Co Carlow, had been enjoying the nice weather on Sunday when he was targeted by two teenage boys.

While leaving the Town Park in Graiguecullen, his sister claimed two boys jumped out from behind him, switched his electric chair to manual and stole his wallet.

She said this is the second time such an incident has happened to her brother.

"They rummaged through his bag on his back and located his wallet, took his wallet and then turned the power chair back so he could use it and absconded on the one bike that they were sharing," Roisin Harte told KCLR 96FM.

"This isn’t the first time it happened to him, it’s happened before. He’s had other struggles in life and we won’t allow this to define him or make him weaker but obviously he’s in shock.

"Anyone who is robbed, but especially someone who is so is such a cowardly thing to do," she added.

Ms Harte described it as a "disgusting" act, but said her brother will continue to go around the area independently.

"He is very resilient, he’s very strong and he’ll continue to go around Graiguecullen.

"It is a very disgusting act, there is no other word to describe it."

Fianna Fáil Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, who knows Eoin personally, also condemned the act.

"To think that this would happen, especially a second time, it is just uncalled for. I don’t know what type of a person would do this," she told KCLR.

She also called for CCTV and better lighting to be installed in the park to help prevent further incidents like this occurring.

A garda spokesman confirmed that investigations are ongoing into the incident.

"Gardaí are investigating an incident of theft that occurred at Town Park, Sleaty Street, Graiguecullen, County Carlow on 26th March 2017 at approximately 2.30pm. A man, early 30’s, was approached by two males who stole property from the man. No injuries were reported.

"A male juvenile was arrested in connection with this investigation a short time. He was detained at Carlow Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 and released from Garda custody without charge. Investigations are ongoing."


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 28th March 2017)

'Their lives were robbed' - Sister of 'Sarah' who lived in the Grace Foster Home speaks about 'horrific sex abuse'


The sister of a child who spent time in the 'Grace' Foster Home has claimed her sister 'Sarah', also suffered horrific sexual abuse at the home.

In an interview with David McCullagh on RTÉ's Prime Time, the woman spoke out about her family's experience at the foster home.

Sarah had intellectual disabilities and the family decided that the best learning option for her would be in a home that was far away from the family.

"There was a private arrangement where Sarah could go just kind of respite during the week just to give her a break from all the travelling but this wasn’t approved by the Health Board at that stage and they were keen for Sarah to go and stay in a registered foster placement.

"It was a comforting thing to our mother because she felt well if this was under the Health Board, the HSE, then all the checks were in place and that would be the best place for Sarah because she would be safe."

Sarah's sister said the family began to have concerns about the home.

"As a parent this is your worst nightmare. Sarah was home on a Sunday afternoon with Mom playing in the sitting room and just being in the space and Sarah was a beautiful young child and Mom said a very innocent turn of phrase and to her absolute horror Sarah got into a position, took down her pants, and kind of got into a sexual position and as you can imagine for any Mum, my mum was shocked and she just was you know immobilised."

The family raised their concerns with the Health Board as they believed it needed to be addressed immediately.

"It was led by our mother who just looked at other options to get her out of there and to see what would offer her the best and safest environment again to learn and grow into her young teens and into adulthood and that meant that she left the jurisdiction and had to go to the North.

"We knew that Sarah had to go and leave that place but again the options were limited and again mom had to look for places outside of Ireland up to Northern Ireland."

According to RTÉ, Sarah's mum was one of the first whistleblowers in the home, and a recommendation was made that another child named 'Grace' would be removed from the foster home but no action was taken.

"Our mother would have been the first whistleblower and again you’re living in a different time and different context altogether and it would have taken a lot of strength and courage to go forward really start speaking out about what her concerns were and not only was she met with a brick wall, they came down really hard on our mother, there was reports written up, they were quite aggressive towards the family, they just totally bullied us in to thinking that it was all just in Mam's head.

"On the other hand they were doing all of these checks themselves and reaching a decision well actually there is something going wrong and Sarah was there the same time as Grace, you know their lives have been robbed in so many ways.

"Both beautiful, innocent children. Some of the most vulnerable children in our state."

Sarah's sister said that she is not only a victim but a survivor.

"Sarah is a victim of this but she’s also a survivor and she is one of the most incredible human beings I know. I have no idea of the pain, the physical pain and the mental torture. Sarah doesn’t have words to express what happened to her how she suffered and yet Sarah greets every day fighting.

"Some days she struggles to get out of bed, there’s so much damage done to her bowel and yet she still has the ability to laugh, she's one of the most forgiving people you’ll meet and she fights for her life and she fights to have meaningful role within our community and be part of our family and that’s why we’ll continue to fight for her right to be heard and her to have a voice and have justice and some truth around what she’s faced and what she’s gone through."

The family are hoping that the Commission of Investigation will give them answers into why this happened.

"I just wonder why Finian Mc Grath in his role as the Minister, particularly in his role as Minister for Disability has chosen this path. We have looked under the Freedom of Information for Sarah’s files to know who has had access to her file and yet we still haven’t got that.

"I think we’re very fortunate that we have some really strong individuals who have gone forward as whistle blowers and we know that whistleblowers are not treated very well in this country but I think without them and without the support of lots of champions in the area this story would be very easily forgotten about and the absolute horrors that have been inflicted on young vulnerable children would be just laid to rest."


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 9th March 2017)

Cash for carrots: wrong ways to make a child eat healthily


Don’t lure them with a lollipop to eat greens, or keep serving food they don’t like

Tears and tantrums at mealtimes are a regular occurrence in many households – but this is often just the parents as they try every tactic to coerce their children into eating healthy food.

Many are faced with shaking heads and stubbornly clamped lips and some youngsters even resort to spitting out the meals that have been so lovingly prepared. So often their exhausted parents, in sheer desperation and worry that their child will be malnourished, give in to demands and offer replacement foods which they know their child will like.

But according to some new research, the trick is to persist in giving children food they don’t like until, eventually, they learn to accept it.

In a study undertaken by Coventry University in Britain and the BBC Terrific Scientific campaign, a group of children aged between 9 and 11 were given kale every day for 15 days. Prior to the experiment, the participants did not care for the vegetable but after a daily dose for two weeks, most found they had in fact developed a liking for the leafy “super-food”.

However, Dr David Carey, director of Psychology at City Colleges and dean of the College of Progressive Education, says constantly bombarding a child with something will only have a negative outcome.

“I do not believe children should be stressed and made anxious or angry deliberately,” he says. “There is enough stress in a child’s life without parents adding more by giving them foods they dislike to eat.”

Peadar Maxwell, senior child psychologist with the Health Service Executive, agrees and says this method will not help to develop a healthy attitude to food.

“I am not sure if this research can be applied to all children,” he says. “Feeding a child something they don’t like for 15 days sounds like exposure therapy, a way of exposing a person to something they are normally adverse to.

Incredibly complex

“This concept is used to tackle all kinds of fears – but food and feeding are incredibly complex as they are tied up in nutrition, emotions and attachment as well as body image and maybe even sensory processing. What does seem like a good idea is exposing your child to healthy and varied foods on a consistent basis so that they get used to the sight and smells and hopefully textures and tastes of new foods.”

Louise Reynolds of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute agrees.

“Offering food up to 15 times may be necessary, particularly at the weaning stage,” she says. “This is a completely normal fear of new things. So praise the child for trying the food, even if they don’t eat it and then after leaving it a couple of days, encourage them to try it again.

“But do not offer the same food every day for 15 days in a row as anyone would be put off by that approach. Instead, provide a few different vegetables in bowls in the middle of the table and allow everyone to help themselves – the younger, less adventurous child will see others trying different foods and this will normalise the behaviour.”

Dr Cliodhna Foley Nolan, director of Safefood Ireland, says while everyone likes different things, there is certainly some truth in the fact that certain foods can be an acquired taste.

“Children, like ourselves, have likes and dislikes and it’s important to respect that,” she advises. “But where whole food groups like fruits and vegetables are ‘disliked’ then we can use repeated exposure to a variety of types – maybe not the same fruit or veg everyday but every few days until it becomes the norm.

“Repeated exposure is important but so is presenting the food in a tasty fashion – for example some children may prefer raw to cooked broccoli, some may prefer a little sauce for dipping or they may like it stir fried. There are ways and means to get over most issues with persuasion and good example.”

Dr Foley Nolan is referring to gentle verbal persuasion but if an official UK guideline is to be believed, parents should persuade children to eat their green by bribing them with cash.

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum in the UK, believes that cash rewards could give children an incentive to eat vegetables and offer a solution to the obesity crisis.


Unorthodox method

As controversial as this notion appears, it seems as though Mr Fry is not alone as in 2016, a study published in the US journal Health Economics showed how a group of 8,000 children who were given money to encourage them to eat healthily, doubled their intake of fruit and vegetables.

But despite the apparent success of this somewhat unorthodox method, Irish psychologists are not supportive.

“Bribery is no way to raise children,” says Dr Carey. “It is inappropriate in any context. Being a member of a family requires co-operation so I don’t believe in bribery to get children to do chores and it is a daft idea to bribe them to eat properly.”

“It’s a form of coercion,” adds Mr Maxwell. “The key part of encouraging children to expand the range of food they eat is to develop trust between parent and child. Children need to be able to trust their parent that they won’t get tricked into eating something that they are afraid of or have an aversion to.

“Bribing also diminishes the child’s feeling of control over what goes into their body and their sense of responsibility about their body. Bribes come before a desired task whereas rewards come after. Bribes encourage expectations of being ‘paid’ to do anything you don’t normally want to do whereas rewards, which can be anything from praise to dessert, encourages co-operation and responsibility.”

Dr Foley Nolan says food really shouldn’t be seen as a challenge and instead just a normal, pleasant part of everyday life.

“Both children and adults should be treated with respect and should not be bribed or forced to eat,” she says. “But it is important to make food attractive and tasty and a key issue is to eat the same food along with a child and to lead by example.

“Unintentionally, we can often put children off certain foods or provide them with a very limited range and this promotes ‘fussiness’. Eating should be an enjoyable and sociable part of life and not linked to parent-child stress.”

Practising what I preach

I am very fortunate to have three sons who pretty much eat everything that is put in front of them. And this I put down to the fact that they were raised in a pretty old-fashioned manner – dinner was dinner without an alternative.

Right from the very beginning I gave them a version of what we were eating, pureed when they were tiny and cut up into little pieces as they got older.

Because they saw us eating the same food, there was never any question of anyone getting something different and as we introduced them to a variety of flavours and textures from the start, they were always open to new foods – sure there were some things they liked better than others, but they never shied away from tasting.

Growing up in a household where both parents have a keen interest in food and cooking, the boys were naturally exposed to a variety of different foods all the time. And as they got older, we included them in the shopping process, followed by the preparation and then the final outcome, serving up the dish they helped to create.

It might seem like a simple and obvious solution, and perhaps I am just fortunate to have children with a broad palate but I do believe that one meal for all and a variety of foods on offer each week, is a good first step.

And according to Ms Reynolds, I may have been on the right track.

“Always remember that children learn so much by example – and that certainly holds true when it comes to their food choices and preferences,” she says. “If you, as a parent, never eat vegetables then you will have a more difficult road to navigate to get your child to embrace all things green and nutritious.

“If you don’t like fish, and therefore never cook it, it may be safe to say that as your child grows up in this fish-free environment they will tend to be a little more suspicious when first offered a nice piece of fresh fish.

“So that’s important – model good behaviour in terms of family mealtimes and being adventurous with foods for your children and basically, the first thing parents should do to get their children to eat properly is to eat properly themselves.”

Simple tips to help parents make mealtimes less of a challenge

“Do not cook four different dinners – ‘one family, one meal’ is a good motto to live by, particularly if you are responsible for the cooking.

“Try to always include something you know the fussy eater will like and after that encourage trying new foods.

“Remember, there will be individual likes and dislikes so don’t get too hung up on the types of vegetables, for example, that your child eats, once they eat some vegetables every day and preferably not the same one.

“Include children in cooking the family meals as they are much more likely to eat something they have cooked themselves and are also learning about ingredients and where food comes from.

“Don’t encourage unhealthy snacks between meals – instead have a well-stocked fruit bowl where children can help themselves.

“Avoid having treats after most main meals – instead offer healthy alternatives like yoghurt and fruit.

“A healthy child will not starve themselves so try to keep stress away from the dinner table.



How to keep your kids trim

The most recent national figures suggest that 25 per cent or one in four Irish children is either overweight or obese. In order to try to reverse these alarming statistics, Safefood has a number of simple steps.

1. Reduce portion size and fill at least 1/3 of the dinner plate with vegetables and salad.

2. Encourage children to eat slowly, use a smaller plate.

3. Avoid eating while watching TV as it is easier to overeat while distracted.

4. Follow serving-size guidelines on high-calorie snacks.

5. Offer a rainbow of foods – in other words serve plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to all family members.

6. Children may need to eat little and often so offer healthy snacks such as cheese and crackers, unsweetened breakfast cereal with milk, chopped vegetables and fruit, yoghurts, wholegrain toast, home-made vegetable soup or even home-made popcorn (minus the salt).

7. Milk and water are the best drinks for preschool children.

8. Unsweetened fruit juice should only be given once a day and ideally should be diluted with water and served with meals.

9. Fizzy drinks (even sugar-free options) are not suitable for children, neither is tea or coffee.

10. Squash should not be offered as a daily drink as most contain sugar or sweeteners.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 6th March 2017)

Garda helpline offers ‘trained listeners’ for sex abuse victims


Lots of offenders unpunished due to victims’ reluctance to go to police, says One in Four

Fewer than 10 per cent of sexual violence victims who contacted the One in Four organisation for help made a criminal complaint to the Garda but a new helpline service may increase the number, it said.

One in Four, which supports men and women who have experienced child sexual abuse, said the fact a report of a sexual crime could be made via the new Garda phone service to a “trained listener” and victims could meet investigating gardaí at a time of the victim’s choosing represented progress.

“Can you imagine having to walk into a Garda station; saying in a busy front office ‘I want to tell somebody about a sexual crime’?” said One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis.

“Can you imagine then having to go through the very detailed statement that would have to be made; that will still have to be made? That is a very difficult thing to do.

“Fewer than 10 per cent of One in Four clients make a complaint to the gardaí, even with all the support we can give them,” she said.


“That means there are an awful lot of sex offenders walking around with impunity who can continue to abuse others.”

Her experience of those on sex offender treatment programmes showed that most sex offenders continued abusing until they were caught.

“I’m really hoping this is going to increase the number of people who do go and actually make a complaint to the gardaí and potentially prosecute the offender and potentially make other children safer,” she said.

The new Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Line was launched by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on Thursday and will take calls relating to current and historical child sex abuse.

It was recommended by the Garda Inspectorate almost five years ago but Ms O’Sullivan said the infrastructure, including specially trained interviewers and investigators, needed to be put in place first.

Those who call the line – 1800 555222 – would reach staff working on the service on a 24-hour basis “seven days a week, 365 days a year”. The service is aimed at creating a compassionate reporting environment and so victims would not need to contact Garda stations.

Complaints of sexual abuse, by victims or third parties, would be taken in a sensitive manner and sent to other gardaí for investigation in the relevant region of the State.Reports that required a 999 response would be treated as such.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 2nd March 2017)

Medical cards proposed for 9,800 severely disabled children


Simon Harris and Finian McGrath to seek approval of measure for under 16s

Up to 10,000 children in receipt of domiciliary care allowance will be given a medical card from June under legislation that is to be considered by the Government on Tuesday.

Minister of Health Simon Harris and Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath are to bring a memo to Cabinet requesting approval to proceed with the decision, which was agreed as part of last year’s budget.

The proposal will give 9,800 severely disabled children under the age of 16 an automatic right to a medical card. This will be introduced from June 1st with an online pre-registration system to be available a month earlier.

The legislation will also allow for a reduction in the prescription charge for medical card holders over 70 from €2.50 to €2. This will take effect from Wednesday. A €20 monthly cap will also apply to this group, €5 less than all other age groups.

Mr Harris and Mr McGrath will ask for an early signature from the President, Michael D Higgins, to ensure up to 330,000 people can avail of lower costs.

The measure was sought by the Independent Alliance and secured in the budget negotiations with their colleagues, Fine Gael. It was initially resisted but agreement was reached hours before Minister for Finance Michael Noonan unveiled the package in October.

The introduction will be on an administrative basis and will allow the Minister for Health to vary either or both of the amounts.

Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar is to seek Cabinet consent to make a number of changes to the community employment schemes, Tús and Gateway.

The three schemes are offered to the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people to get back to work by offering part-time and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities.

The Minister is seeking to link the number of scheme places to the number of people on the Live Register. Mr Varadkar is also proposing to widen the pool of people who can access these programmes but reduce the entry age to 21, and allow people who have “timed out” to have another chance.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 28th February 2017)

A child became homeless every five hours in January, Dáil told


‘Shameful’ statistic shows Government policy not working, says FF TD Barry Cowen

Focus Ireland said a child became homeless every five hours in January, a statistic called “shameful” by Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen.

“We are obliged in this House to seek to remove whatever obstacles that are preventing the implementation of any plans,” Mr Cowen told the Dáil on Thursday.

He said only 1,829 housing units were under construction as part of the Government’s plans. “The rest are going through various stages and the majority of them were approved over two years ago,” he said.

Mr Cowen accused the Government of being obsessed about announcements in the hope that people would be bamboozled by detail.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who took Opposition Leaders’ Questions, said the country was in a extraordinarily difficult economic situation just a few years ago. On Wednesday, she told the Dáil that unemployment figures were revealed to be down 6.8 per cent, a figure Fianna Fáil said would never be reached, she added.

The Government was providing more money and more detailed work with local authorities to deal with the housing situation, Ms Fitzgerald said.

Repair and leasing

The Tánaiste later said the allocation of €32 million to deal with repair and leasing of housing would be announced and local authorities would work to ensure that more properties were available for people seeking housing.

She said the four Dublin local authorities had confirmed the target would be met to ensure children and families would not be using hotels in the city.

There was a targeted social plan, but it would take some time, Ms Fitzgerald added.

Later, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said last year 2,700 “housing solutions” were put in place for homeless individuals and families.

In the past number of months, he said, the Government had managed to stop the significant increase by taking a lot of people out of homelessness as quickly as possible.

“We need to ensure that we slow down the numbers becoming homelessness and continue to increase the pace in which we can facilitate the transition out of emergency accommodation,” Mr Coveney added.

“I am still confident we can do that by July 1st.”

Mr Coveney said it was a big job to get between 700 and 800 families out of hotel accommodation and into appropriate accommodation in that period, but the Government was determined to do it.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 24th February 2017)

Low grade for Govt in children's rights group report


The Children's Rights Alliance, which is supported by close to 100 rights-based and young people's organisations, has launched its annual assessment of the Government's performance of upholding children’s rights.


The alliance's Report Card 2017 gave the Government's performance an overall D+ grade.


The alliance says this year’s result is the poorest in six years. It is particularly worried about the limited availability of round-the-clock services for children who are sexually abused with only one unit in Ireland to respond to those needs.


The report also finds certain groups of children are being left behind, including Travellers and Roma children, child refugees and asylum seekers, and children who are homeless.


The report does acknowledge progress in pre-school care for three and four year olds and in universal access to GP care for under six year olds.


Speaking at the launch of the report, Chief Executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward said: "While there has been progress in a number of areas, overall this is the lowest grade in six years. This needs to change.


"In 2016 we have seen significant progress, with advances including the Affordable Childcare Scheme, LGBT+ Strategy, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill and paid Paternity Leave having the potential to impact positively on a significant number of children's lives.


"However, unnecessary delays in other areas have caused this low grade. Progress of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been stalled.


"Recommendations from the McMahon report are yet to be put into action, leaving girls and boys in Direct Provision without their basic needs met."


(Published by on the 21st February 2017)

New mums fear baby will be taken into care if they admit depression


Women who suffer from depression during and after pregnancy are often reluctant to admit to it for fear their baby will be taken into care.


Dr Krysia Lynch, chairwoman of the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services Ireland (AIMS), said the lack of supports tailored towards perinatal mental health means women face being admitted to general acute mental health units, separated from their newborn, if they admit to poor mental health.


“Women are very reluctant to admit to perinatal mental health issues because they are frightened Tusla will get involved and that the baby will be taken away from them,” Dr Lynch said.


Dr Lynch was speaking at yesterday’s deliberations on the new National Maternity Strategy (NMS) 2016-2026 as part of a presentation by AIMS to the the Oireachtas Joint Health Committee.


She said AIMS is urging Health Minister Simon Harris to implement the recommendations of the strategy associated with perinatal mental health which she said “remains particularly under-resourced” despite figures showing antenatal depression and anxiety at rates of 17-18% and postnatal depression at 18-19%.


The strategy recommends that all health care professionals involved in antenatal and postnatal care, be trained to identify women at risk of developing or experiencing emotional or mental health difficulties in the perinatal period. It also recommends improved access to mental health and family supports to ensure appropriate care is provided quickly and additional support for women who have experienced traumatic birth or the loss of a baby. However, vice-chairwoman of AIMS, Breda Kerans, said the first recommendation of the NMS - that an implementation plan be put in place within six months of the strategy being published - has not happened more than a year later.


“Therefore, for the woman and her family on the ground currently using the services the National Maternity Strategy has changed nothing so far,” she said.


The strategy admits that perinatal mental health supports are inadequate. It says there are just three perinatal psychiatrists, all based in Dublin who work part time “with services under significant pressures”.


Speakers at yesterday’s committee also highlighted the lack of perinatal mental health psychologists. Ms Kerans said all maternity units in France have them, but that there are none here.


Fine Gael Dublin Bay South TD, Kate O’Connell, said because there are no mother and baby units for perinatal mental health issues means if women “were on the edge of a breakdown”, separating them from their baby is likely to “send them over the edge”.


AIMS is calling for a perinatal mental health strategy with ring-fenced funding, as in Britain. It is also seeking dedicated mother and baby psychiatric beds - there are none - as it is considered best practice to keep mothers and babies together when an admission to a psychiatric unit becomes necessary.


AIMS is also seeking additional perinatal psychiatrists and psychologists.


The issue of additional supports to encourage breastfeeding was also raised. The point was made that breastfeeding rates among the Polish community in Ireland are up to 95% while they are as low as 40% among Irish women.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 17th February 2017)

Over 5,000 at-risk children have no social worker, Dáil hears


Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan says the reduction the number of such cases is ‘inadequate’

More than 5,000 children who have been brought to the attention of child welfare and protection services have still not been allocated a social worker, it has emerged.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone told the Dáil on Tuesday there had been a 19 per cent reduction in the number of at-risk children without an allocated social worker since the end of 2015.

However, Labour spokeswoman on children, Jan O’Sullivan, said the target for the end of 2016 had been a 60 per cent reduction in the number of such cases.

She said the 19 per cent reduction “is totally inadequate for the children who have had no social worker allocated to them, despite the fact they are at risk”.

The Minister said that, in December 2015, there were 6,718 children without an allocated social worker. By the end of 2016, there were 5,413 such cases.

Ms Zappone said cases were assessed and prioritised according to risk.

“It will continue to be challenging to address the problem of unallocated cases, but we made good progress during 2016 and Tusla will continue to prioritise the issue in 2017.”

She said that one of the key challenges was the recruitment of sufficient social workers and key support staff.

The Minister said an addition €4.2 million in funding had been provided to recruit almost 70 social workers and to deal with legislative issues.

Ms Zappone said she hoped an extra 200 social workers would be in place by the end of this year, bringing the total to 1,675 full-time workers.

The Minister said she had provided Tusla with an additional €37 million this year, bringing its overall allocation to more than €700 million.

She added that the 60 per cent reduction target had been “self-imposed”, but she was aware it had not been reached.


McCabe case

Referring to the case of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, and the Tusla file that had been created on him that included false allegations of sexual abuse, Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister about the closing of case files when there was no longer perceived to be a risk.

She said: “We really need to know how . . . incorrect data were still on the Garda system a year or so after it had been identified that they were not correct.”

Ms Zappone told her that systems were now in place to deal with such an issue.

She reiterated that she had requested a full review of the systems and processes of Tusla in this regard, because she too was concerned about the case.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 15th February 2017)

‘Places a priority’ for children at risk


Intervention for children at risk should be made on the basis of identified need, rather than availability of places, according to the chairperson of the National Review Panel on the deaths of children known to care services.


Helen Buckley was speaking at an event entitled ‘Working with Complexity’ where attendees also heard that the role of domestic violence in childcare cases is too often unseen.


In one Tusla area, it had made 21 special care applications in recent years — each one involved domestic violence — but none of the young people came to the attention of social workers until they were aged 12 or 13.


Stephanie Holt, assistant professor at the School of Social Work in Trinity College Dublin, revealed that the same Tusla area is now spending more of its budget on community-based services that may have more chance of spotting domestic violence issues in the home at an earlier stage.


In her presentation at the day-long conference, organised by the Bessborough Centre in Cork, Dr Buckley said one conclusion from recent reviews was that there was rarely a cause and effect between services and causes of death.


She said that organisational variables influencing cases included availability of staff to fill posts and poor co-ordination, while community and family variables included domestic violence, mental illness, problematic family functioning and resistance to services.


“All this makes for a complex system which is rarely static and where the pathway to outcomes is not always discernible,” she said.


Dr Buckley said recent reviews and inquiries had shown the need for more strategic allocation of resources to support social work and to provide appropriate out-of-home placements, and consistency when it came to applying thresholds for intervention.


She referred to cases deemed to fall under the ‘child welfare’ category when, in the eyes of some of the panel, so much damage had already been done.


She also said there was a need for protocols in respect of public health nurse services, saying “they are beginning to feel very shoved aside by what is happening recently”.


Dr Buckley said data from the Child and Family Agency showed the demands on the system exceed its capacity and that staff retention and recruitment were major challenges.


However, she also said that even in cases where all regulations were followed, challenging situations involving vulnerable children could still occur.


Dr Holt, speaking on the issue of domestic violence, said it was rarely the presenting issue for those affected by it, with anxiety, depression and other issues presented instead — a situation she described as “scratching the surface”.


She said that the review of the 21 special care applications in the Tusla area had shown despite domestic violence having been a factor in the household, it had not come to light in early childhood and the cases had not met the threshold for intervention until they were in their early teens.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 10th February 2017)

Supervised injecting facilities approved at Cabinet


The Cabinet has approved the introduction of legislation to establish supervised injecting facilities for drug users.


Facilities would be staffed by medics trained to deal with overdoses where users can access sterile needles and rooms to inject drugs they have brought with them.


It would effectively legalise possession of heroin in the unit, but it would still be illegal to sell or supply drugs inside or outside the facility.


The first pilot injecting centre is due to be opened in Dublin city centre in the autumn.


The locations of the other facilities have not yet been decided.


The legislation is expected to be introduced in the Dáil in the coming weeks.


The Department of Health said the experience from 90 facilities around the world showed a reduction in fatal overdoses and transmission of blood-borne diseases, less drug-related litter and no increase in drug usage or drug-related crime.


Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Minister of State Catherine Byrne said that injection centres should not result in more drug use or drug related crime.


However, she said they would reduce the risk of fatal overdose and blood borne viruses.


Ms Byrne said there is already a cohort of people injecting openly in Dublin.


She said the centres provide a safe place for people who were already using drugs in the area.


Independent Alliance Minister of State Finian McGrath is supportive of the policy, but believes such facilities should be located in all affected regions and not just Dublin city centre.


Amid reports that gardaí have concerns about the establishment of injecting centres, a spokesman for An Garda Síochána yesterday said they will support whatever policy and legislation is introduced in this area.


Minister for Health Simon Harris said in a statement after the Cabinet meeting: "I know people have concerns about where this first pilot facility will be located, but I want to assure you that no decisions have been made.


"The HSE will be undertaking a process of consultation, including with local stakeholders and communities. Any decision on the location of the pilot facility will be informed by the outcome of this consultation process."


A company representing businesses and cultural centres in Temple Bar said the decision effectively is a decriminalisation of drug use in certain areas of Dublin city.


The Temple Bar Company said it does not believe a measured approach has been taken, saying that injection centres are implemented as part of a unified approach to tackling addiction in other countries.


It said in other countries, "adequate policing is in place to manage additional numbers of addicts into these areas and drugs are safely dispensed and medically supervised unlike the Government's proposals where people will carry drugs to and from centres".

Separately, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe brought a memo to Cabinet on a new approach to review certain day-to-day expenditure by Government departments over a period.


The Cabinet discussed the locations of ministerial trips for St Patrick's Day and it is expected there will be a focus on Brexit and European locations.


Dáil to vote on Fianna Fáíl pension bill on Thursday


Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea launched a private members' bill to ensure workers in defined benefit pension schemes are protected from their employers attempting to wind up the scheme.


Unlike a separate bill from the Labour Party, he said his bill was not retrospective as legal advice he received suggested it was not constitutionally possible.


When asked if it would deal with the pension situation at INM, he said his bill was not geared at any specific company.


Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, said the provisions proposed in the bill would have significant and far reaching consequences for defined benefit pension schemes in Ireland.


He said such schemes have been facing huge challenges over the last two decades due to volatility in stock markets, increasing liabilities arising from demographic pressures of increasing life expectancy, low interest rates and regulatory requirements.


He said the cost of providing benefits has increased at a rate that has not been covered by the investment returns earned by these pension schemes.


Mr Varadkar said that he discussed the bill with the Attorney General and has concerns about the constitutionality of the bill.


Labour's Willie Penrose suggested convening a forum to discuss how to legislate to protect workers in defined benefit pension schemes.


He said he had previously proposed legislation in this area and he welcomed Mr O'Dea's proposals. He also warned the Government against parking the legislation.


Meanwhile, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit group said while they welcomed the fact that some kind of bill was before the house. Deputy Brid Smith said there were huge weaknesses in Mr O'Dea's proposals.


Mr O'Dea accused the minister of "meaningless jargon" and said Fianna Fáil will be pushing the bill to a vote on Thursday.


Sinn Féin TDs indicated that they will support the bill.


(Published by on the 7th February 2017)

Irish human rights chief Logan 'numb and shocked' by US actions


The Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has said it is imperative that Ireland speaks up and shows moral leadership in protecting migrant and refugee children.

Emily Logan has also described being left "numb and shocked" by President Donald Trump's travel ban.

Speaking at a seminar in Dublin on Ireland's Response to the Global Refugee and Migration Crisis, Ms Logan said: "We have felt fear and insecurity in this period of uncertainty following Brexit and just these past days been left numb and shocked at the divisive and negative developments emerging in particular from the new administration in the US".

Ms Logan said the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, estimates that children make up 52% of all Syrian refugees.

She said a number of these have become icons of war and conflict including three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body was photographed face down at the water's edge on a beach in Turkey in 2015.

Ms Logan said "the current difficulties at European level, presents an opportunity for Ireland to show the same moral leadership, and to arrest the disturbing and growing European trend of regression from fundamental human rights values".

She has welcomed the introduction of the single procedure, which reduces the previous prolonged delays in the asylum adjudication process that have led to protracted periods of residence in direct provision centres.

But Ms Logan said the eligibility of family members remains a particular area of concern which is likely to cause considerable hardship to refugee families.

She said the Commission will continue to seek reform to ensure that a full range of family relationships are fully vindicated.


"The eligibility of families is restricted to certain family members - spouses, civil partners and children,” she said.

"Where the applicant is under 18 years of age, their parents, and siblings under 18 who are unmarried. No other family members will be eligible for family reunification."


(Published by on the 1st February 2017)

Childrens’ views taken into account in adoption legislation, Seanad told


All children eligible for adoption regardless of parents’ marital status, Minister says

The views of children will be taken into account under new adoption legislation, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has told the Seanad. She said she had amended the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016 to enable the views of the child to be heard and to ensure that their best interests were protected.

“The new sections detail the factors and circumstances relevant to the child that the authority or court shall have regard to in determining the child’s best interests in any matter, application or proceeding before them,’’ Ms Zappone said.

She said the factors included the child’s age, the child’s physical, psychological and emotional needs, and the likely effect of adoption. They would also include, added Ms Zappone, the child’s views on his or her proposed adoption, social, intellectual and educational needs, upbringing and care.

There would also be regard for the child’s relationship with his or her parent/s, guardian or relatives, as well as any other relevant circumstances, she said.

Ms Zappone said the children’s referendum had provided children with constitutional rights and protections, and the Bill gave legislative effect to those.

All children were eligible for adoption, regardless of the marital status of their parents, she said.

“The Bill also provides for ensuring that the best interests of the child, and the views of the child, are at the heart of adoption proceedings before the authority or the courts,’’ she added.

Ms Zappone said adoption was first and foremost a child welfare measure, aimed at providing a new family for a child who could not be cared for by his or her parents.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 25th January 2017)

Warning issued about 'lethal white powder' following death of talented footballer (16)


The HSE has issued a public health message about a lethal white powder following the death of a teenager in Cork city.


Michael Cornacchia was discovered in an unresponsive state in a bedroom at his home in the Deerpark estate, Friars Walk, on the southside of Cork city on Monday.

The shocking discovery was made by his mother shortly after 10am on Monday.


Now David Lane, Co-Ordinator of Drug & Alcohol Services with the HSE in the city, has warned of the potential dangers of the synthetic drug known as U-47700, or by its street name U-4.

Speaking on RTE News, he said: "It hasn't appeared in an Irish context previously. We are aware that this particular drug has been implicated in deaths in the United States, other parts of Europe and the UK.


"So we are issuing this public health message to let people know that it has made an appearance on the streets in Cork. We are appealing through various networks in Cork city for drug users to avoid taking the substance."

The substance has the appearance of cocaine and some users may mistake it for cocaine.


Users who think they may have the substance are advised to dispose of it or, if they insist on taking it, to do so in the presence of a friend.

The drug was first recorded in Tennessee in the United States in June 2015, and has been linked to at least 50 deaths in 10 US states.


It is the first time the drug has been recorded in this country.

Mr Cornacchia was discovered unresponsive on Monday and medical personnel were called but despite their best efforts the teenager was pronounced dead at the scene.


A talented footballer, Michael played for his local club Kilreen Celtic.

Chairman of the club Donal Kelleher described him as a “quiet” and “popular” teenager.


“He was with us for a good few years and was playing with the U16s recently. He was a good player, he played centre-half for us,” Mr Kelleher told

“He would have got on well with all the lads, he was a popular guy. He used to have long, dark hair down to his shoulders so everyone would have known him. He was a good young fella who was quiet. It’s very hard for everyone at the club to take.”


Gardaí have spoken to friends of the tragic teenager and believe he had been out socialising on Sunday night.

A toxicology report will determine the exact cause of Michael’s death.


However, it may take several weeks to complete.


“It can take at least five weeks for the results of a toxicology report to come back to establish what has caused the death, but gardaí have spoken with his friends and are satisfied with the timeline in the hours leading up to the discovery of Michael’s body,” a senior source said.

A post-mortem examination was expected to take place at Cork University Hospital last night.


Residents in the Deerpark estate expressed their shock at the death, with one local woman describing Michael as a “very pleasant” teenager.


“I have two children of my own so my heart goes out to his parents and what they are going through. He was a very pleasant boy and seemed to be well liked by people in the area,” a neighbour said.

Schoolboys arrived at the housing estate yesterday to sympathise with his grieving relatives. Neighbour Jack O’Keeffe said the youngster had “everything going for him”.


“He was a handsome lad. A beautiful lad. We are all devastated... He had everything in life going for him,” he said.


Former Cork City Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary expressed his sympathies with Michael’s family.

“It is a very tragic situation for the family and my deepest condolences go out to them at this time,” Mr O’Leary said.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 17th January 2017)

Eighty-four minors received in-patient psychiatric hospital care last year


Seventeen children, aged between 13 and 14, were resident in Irish psychiatric hospitals, for a range of mental health disorders, last year, census figures show.


Eighty-four under-18s received psychiatric in- patient care for conditions such as depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and neuroses.


The majority of young patients were aged 16 or under, with 17 patients aged between 13 and 14 years. Almost two-thirds of young in-patients were female.


Twenty-two under-18s had a primary diagnosis of a depressive disorder, while 14 patients had a diagnosis of an eating disorder.


Schizophrenia and neuroses were also among the conditions for which young people received treatment last year.


The figures, published by the Health Research Board, were collated from a national census of psychiatric hospitals and units around the country on March 31, 2016.


This census is undertaken every three years, and the previous two were held in 2013 and 2010.


The latest census shows that there were 2,480 resident in-patients in psychiatric units and hospitals on March 31, 2016. That’s seven more than in 2013. One-third (about 800) of patients had a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia; 422 patients had a depressive disorder; 300 had an organic mental disorder, and 124 patients had an intellectual disability.


Males accounted for more than half of all patients, while one-in-three were 65 years and over. 17% of in-patients (422) were involuntary admissions, compared to 13% in 2010 and 15%.


Meanwhile, one-third of patients were long-stay and had been in hospital continuously for one year or more.


The Health Research Board also outlined details of censuses taken over the last 50 years. The data shows an 88% drop in in-patient numbers since 1963 and a 62% drop in involuntary hospitalisations since 1971. The board said that the increased figure of 84 child and teenage residents last year, compared to the 43 in 2010 and 64 in 2013, was “largely a reflection of increased capacity in child and adolescent in-patient services”.


Health Research Board chief Dr Graham Love said: “These data are crucial to increase our understanding of service demand in this area and to inform decisions about service planning.” New laws will be in place by the end of the year to ensure that insurance companies tell customers why they are paying more.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 11th January 2017)

Families urged to talk about organ donation


The decision on donating a loved one’s organs is so much easier to make if those involved have already discussed the issue, writes Jessica Casey


‘We all think if we’re on the donor register and we have the cards, we’re covered. In reality, we are more likely to need a transplant than to donate,” says Emma Corrigan, Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland co-ordinator.


In her role, Ms Corrigan meets with families who find themselves in intensive care units and emergency departments, unexpectedly facing the loss of a loved one.


“A lot of these situations are sudden and absolute tragedies. They didn’t expect to sit in that room, they didn’t expect to get that news.


“Nobody knew this would happen to them.”


Last year, 233 transplantations were carried out here from 81 deceased donors, according to figures available from the Irish Kidney Association. Without the consent of the donor’s next of kin, these transplants would not have been possible.


Research from the UK suggests families are much more likely to give their consent to organ donation if they know their loved ones wishes, according to national projects manager with the Irish Kidney Association, Colin White.


“In an intensive care unit after you have been declared brain stem dead, your next of kin will be approached. If you have had that chat, it makes it so much easier for them.”


Most organ donations are from donors who have been declared brain stem dead, according to the HSE.


Donations can also take place after a cardiac death and certain organs like kidneys can be donated through a live organ donation, usually involving a family member.


One donor can help several people, as a single donor can choose to give a number of organs like their kidney, liver, heart, lungs, small bowel and pancreas and tissues like corneas, bone, skin, heart valves, tendons and cartilage.


Families facing the loss of a loved one can feel totally powerless, says Mr White.


“A common feeling is ‘I wish I could do something’. It’s a great legacy to leave your family. I have known families who have lost a loved one, but the lives of two or three or four, even five people have been transformed,” he says, adding donor recipients are particularly grateful around celebrations.


“People are aware, this is another Christmas I get to enjoy with my loved ones because of the generosity of a complete stranger.”


And organ donation has a ripple effect, he said, with the lease of life given to the next generation when recipients go on to have children, and for the children get to spend more time with a parent after they receive a transplant.


“When you work with people who are chronically ill who are given a second chance and you witness that, it’s incredibly profound. So many inspiring stories, and equally heartbreaking ones, but the joy you hear when they’re got the call, the joy they feel when they’ve been given that gift.”


It’s a privilege to work with the families of organ donors, says Ms Corrigan.


“They are sitting there and their lives have changed irreparably in just a day and while they are sitting there, they decide they can help strangers, completely altruistically — yet we can’t help them with their loss. They change lives forever, in such a positive way. The families are phenomenal.


“Parents dealing with losing their children — there’s no words. They feel they want something positive to come out of it. Very quickly they’ll say things like, ‘He’d a good heart, I want his heart to go to someone’.”


Next year, it will be 50 years since the first human heart transplant, according to Gerry Scully, secretary of the Irish Heart and Lung Transplant Association.


It can almost be like a raffle to get a match for those on transplant lists, Mr Scully said, adding that patients can have their expectations raised to go on to be bitterly disappointed.


“As it is now, you can come up in an ambulance, with whistles and bells, to get there to be told you’re not suitable.”


In countries like Portugal, Belgium and Switzerland, an opt-out system is in place, where those who do not wish to donate their organs instead opt out of any potential procedures, he said.


“It’s grand having the organ donation card, but you need to have the conversation about your wishes with your family. At the end of the day, your family has the final say.”


However, organ donation is not right for every family, Ms Corrigan said.


“It’s an option, it’s putting that option to the family. For some people, a no is right for them and that’s absolutely fine. It’s about allowing people and families to make that decision themselves.”


But if you do wish to donate your organs after you pass away, having the conversation with your family is pivotal, Ms Corrigan says.


“People have to talk about it. It makes such a difference to a family in an acute tragedy.”


The Irish Kidney Association is encouraging families to talk about their wishes.


“Our core message is when families get together over the festive period, have the chat.”


‘It’s finding a positive in such a horrific situation’

“When I was 20 weeks pregnant, at the 21 week scan when you’re wondering if its a boy or a girl, that’s when we were told we were in trouble.”


Clidhna Costello remembers when she was told her five-year-old son Tadhg McElroy wouldn’t be viable with life. “When he was born and we heard him cry, we were shocked,” she says.


But it wasn’t long before Clidhna and Tadhg’s father Terry McElroy were told their son was extremely ill.


“We were told one of his kidneys had burst and the other one was on the way out.”


Their son’s life was saved when a catheter was inserted when he was three days old. Tadhg then went on to start treatment for dialysis at six months old.


“We spent so much time in the hospital, we knew the nurses and the taxi drivers who were bringing us there better than our own friends,” says Ms Costello.


When her son was one and a half, Ms Costello started looking into the screening process for live donor kidney transplants.


When she got the phonecall to tell her she was a viable match for her son, the nurse asked her if she would need to take some time to consider everything before proceeding.


She remembers laughing and telling them — “‘I don’t need to, can we just move on?’ I just broke down in tears, I couldn’t believe it.” However, she says her family had heard about others going through the process for over a year to be told they could no longer proceed as a match wouldn’t be possible.


“We were well aware it could be pulled out from under our feet,”she says.


Leaving her son in Temple St before the procedure was the worst, she says, adding that the procedure was “very scary, very sore but it worked”.


“If you saw Tadgh today, you wouldn’t know he had been sick. He’s started school and we didn’t think he’d be able to start. If he didn’t have that transplant, he’d be a different child.


“It’s a different world, like night and day for our family. We missed so many events, weddings because we couldn’t make plans.”


After her operation, Ms Costello was “blessed” with two new additions to their family, twins Donagh and Caoila. “They’re fabulous. I had worried if I’d be able to go on to have children,” says Ms Costello.


Ms Costello says the family has a video of Tadgh aged two asking his mother for twins, like his friend has.


“I’m really glad I didn’t disappoint ”she says adding that twins don’t run in the family.


“We just got lucky!”


Sadly, the family has been affected by kidney failure twice, as soon after Tadgh’s transplant Mr McElroy’s mother Evelyn was told she needed a kidney transplant.


“Just as he was getting a transplant, she went into kidney failure,” says Mr McElroy.


“Obviously we were very lucky that Clidhna was a match, because it’s not easy. Unfortunately none of my family are a match for my mother.”


After the family’s experience with organ donation, they are stronger advocates for donor cards.


“We’ve seen the benefits and we’ve seen a lot of other patients benefit from donor cards,” says Mr McElroy.


“I’ve always carried a card, I can’t encourage it enough.”


Ms Costello says: “The problem is, if you don’t speak to your family about your wishes, you might as well not have the card.


“It’s finding a positive in such a horrific situation. It’s not something you think about but the difference it makes.”


‘Everybody needs to consider it’

In August 2015, mother of three teenagers Gina Lenehan suffered a massive heart attack completely “out of the blue”.


“I was fit and healthy, it was just one of those things that can happen,” she says.


A coronary artery dissection, a tear in the wall of the artery, left her heart damaged beyond repair.


“I can’t remember any of this, I remember being in the ambulance but I don’t remember leaving it,”she says.


After she was rushed to St James’s Hospital, Ms Lenehan was put on life support in the hope it would help improve her situation. However, “the prognosis wasn’t good”, she says.


“It was coming very close, my husband knew the conversation that was coming.”


Doctors told her family she needed a heart transplant to survive and while she was in hospital, a heart became available.


“The timing was miraculous,” says Ms Lenehan.


“I was a match, I feel like one of the luckiest people alive, I genuinely feel like that.”


Ms Lenehan says she recovered very well after her transplant, although she suffered with muscle myopathy after the procedure and was only able to move her big toe at first.


She says she thanks her donor and their family every day.


“Everyday you think of them, everyday they are there with you. I couldn’t imagine what that decision would be like. It’s amazing a family considered it while they were grieving. I get upset when I think of the donor’s family and the decision they had to make.


“It’s such a selfless thing to do, it’s unbelievable.”


Ms Lenehan says it struck her recently when was signing her son’s 14th birthday card.


“I wouldn’t be writing that, if it wasn’t for my donor’s family.”


As a pharmacist, Ms Lenehan says organ donation was something that was close to her in her line of work, both promoting it and working with people waiting on transplants.


However, after her transplant, she says she is even more aware of the importance of promoting organ donation.


“I’ve everything to look forward to, thanks to my donor. You do look at life a little different, you do get annoyed by the same little things of course, but life is precious.


“Everybody needs to consider it.”


Isabel educates through social media

Isabel Terry has been waiting for a rare transplant surgery since 2009, as she requires both a heart and a double lung transplant.


The 41-year-old from Bishopstown, Cork, was born with pulmonary atresia, a congenital heart defect.


Between 1975 and 2001, Ms Terry had three open heart surgeries, before being sent to for a heart transplant assessment in 2003.


After being added to the transplant list, Ms Terry had five unsuccessful calls for surgery over the next five years.


After becoming ill in 2009, tests in the Mater Hospital showed that Ms Terry also required a lung transplant.


As the surgery had never been carried out in Ireland, she was sent to Newcastle, where further assessments showed she needed a double lung transplant as well as a heart.


Since being added to the list in Newcastle, Ms Terry has had one unsuccessful match.


Ms Terry started her Facebook page ‘Life on the List’ using her own experience of her life waiting on the transplant list as a way of educating people about organ donation, without any “morbid talk”, she says.


Through the page, Ms Terry encourages her readers to take a selfie of themselves and their organ donor cards and post them to social media.


“The page and the selfie makes it light hearted,”she says, adding that it also helps to get people to talk about their wishes with their family as well as dispelling any myths about organ donation.


“A lot of people don’t know even if you have the card, your next of kin can still say no. Or some people think if you are over a certain age you can’t donate.”


Ms Terry says she requires oxygen 24 hours a day, which means she is limited in what she can do.


“I don’t socialise much, it’s hard waiting for the phone to ring. That’s why I set up the page. I hope I get the call but it’s a rare surgery.


“I’ll be happy if I can bring awareness to people about the importance of organ donor cards.


“If anything, God forbid happened your next of kin at that time it must be horrific but knowing that conversation took place can make things easier.”


See Twitter @isabelslifeonthelist and Facebook:


‘She saved three men’s lives — my dad is just so proud’

In 2006, Pauline Brierton on a train in Australia on her way to the cinema when she got the call that her mother Mary Gallagher was in hospital.


Pauline and her brother had only been in the country a few weeks when they were told their mother had suffered a brain haemorrhage and they would need to come home immediately.


“There was really nothing anyone could do, the damage was too severe,” says Ms Brierton.


Her mother was only 53 years old.


“It was such a blur. I don’t remember anything from that trip home until we got to the airport, where my cousin was waiting to drive us to Letterkenny hospital,” says Ms Brierton.


After doctors and nurses approached her family in the hospital about the procedure, Ms Brierton’s family made the decision to donate Ms Gallagher’s organs.


Her liver and her kidneys were given to three men on the transplant waiting list.


“She saved three men’s lives,” says Ms Brierton.


After the donation, the family received an anonymous letter from one of the men who received a kidney as a result of their family’s decision.


“He told us about his dialysis, how he couldn’t play with his kids, I got the impression from his letter they were toddlers.


“He couldn’t thank us enough, from the bottom of his heart.


“He said after his transplant he was fighting fit and had a whole new lease of life, to be with his wife and children.


“The grief and shock we went through, it was so severe but this made is so much easier.


“And it was great for us, but it was amazing for my dad. He was so proud.


“Anytime anyone came into the house, my father would show them the letter and say ‘Look at what she did, look who she helped’ He was just so proud.”


“She passed away nearly 11 years now, I miss her everyday.


“You never get over the loss, but the letter helped, and that she saved three men’s lives is just so lovely.”


“More people need to have that chat [about organ donation], more people need to talk about it.”




To become an organ donor, you can freetext the word DONOR to 50050 or download the Organ Donor app available on Android and iPhone.


To request a donor card visit


If you do decide to become an organ donor, remember to let your loved ones know your decision.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 5th January 2017)

http://Families urged to talk about organ donation

President Higgins laments hate and racism in Christmas address


Gardaí have launched an investigation after receiving a complaint that two children were sexually assaulted at a crèche by a staff member.

Society must maintain a sense of solidarity in order to achieve a better future, he says

President Michael D Higgins has used his annual Christmas message to sound a warning note about “new forces” in society seeking to utilise hate and racism.

Mr Higgins touched on the ongoing global refugee crisis, “horrific violence and suffering” in the Midde East and the uncertainty caused by Brexit in a video address to the Irish public released on Wednesday.

The message had a heavy focus on external matters, and he drew on similarities between the story of the birth of Christ with its themes of “forced migration, homelessness and powerlessness” and the current hardships being endured by humans across the world.

“This story should resonate to us in our present world and circumstances, holding, as it does, a message for all of us, regardless of our circumstances or faith. A message of challenge to moral action, one of optimism in our capacities for a new beginning, and it is a message of peace,” he said.


‘Pride and confidence’

“As this year ends and a new one begins, the dream of ‘Peace on Earth’ can seem very distant.

“In the past year, we have witnessed horrific violence and suffering in countries such as Syria, Yemen and Iraq but also closer to home in Istanbul, Nice, Brussels and in so many other towns and cities.”

The President also made reference to the celebrations around the centenary of the Easter Rising, saying we “celebrated elements of our past that can provide us with a lasting source of pride and confidence, as well as a compass for the future.”

He concluded with a wish that Irish citizens will continue to “build the true republic of which our forebears dreamt”, saying that society must maintain a sense of solidarity in order to achieve a better future.

“Now new forces seek to exploit old divisions or create new ones, utilising even the hate of racism and ethnic exclusion. Our solidarity is the heart beat of our society. Our bonds are stronger than we think, and stronger than that which at times divides us,” he said.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 20th December 2016)

UN: 80,000 Nigerian children will starve to death


Nearly half a million children will face starvation in north-eastern Nigeria next year and 80,000 will die unless they receive treatment, amid the humanitarian crisis created by Boko Haram's Islamic uprising, the United Nations' children's agency has warned.

"What is already a crisis can become a catastrophe," Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said.

His statement said the 400,000 children at risk of starvation represented just a fraction of the suffering among some 2.6 million refugees in the seven-year uprising that has killed more than 20,000 people.


"If they do not receive the treatment they need, one in five of these children will die," Mr Lake said.

"Large areas of Borno state are completely inaccessible to any kind of humanitarian assistance. We are extremely concerned about the children trapped in these areas."


Boko Haram attacked a military-escorted humanitarian convoy in July about 45 miles from Maiduguri, the birthplace of the insurgency, wounding a Unicef worker, two other aid workers and two soldiers.

A rocket-propelled grenade slammed into the windscreen of a bullet-proof vehicle, one that Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has accused the agency of buying instead of spending money on people in need. Unicef said the vehicle was a donation.


Mr Lake spoke just days after Mr Buhari accused the UN and private international aid agencies of exaggerating the crisis to seek donations. Mr Buhari declared that Boko Haram was "technically defeated" a year ago and appeared to be fixed on maintaining that fiction.

While soldiers from a multinational force of Nigeria and neighbouring countries have pushed the extremists out of towns and many villages they occupied, attacks on military outposts and suicide bombings of soft targets continue.


The Associated Press news agency has reported since September that children already are dying of starvation in Maiduguri, the biggest city in Nigeria's north east that is easily accessible.

Doctors Without Borders said in November that thousands of children already have died, including 10 to 25% of children admitted to its 110-bed Maiduguri emergency treatment centre.


Nigeria's senate is investigating allegations that government agencies are diverting food aid that could help prevent those deaths.

Mr Buhari was elected in March 2015 on a platform that pledged to finish off Boko Haram and halt endemic corruption.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 14th December 2016)

McGrath raises Govt's UN disability ratification delay at Cabinet


Minister of State Finian McGrath has revealed that he raised the controversy about blockages to the Republic ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities at yesterday's Cabinet meeting.


The Independent Alliance Minister with Responsibility for People with Disabilities has told RTÉ News that "very shortly" the Government aims to publish legislation that would bring it closer to guaranteeing compliance with the Convention.


But Mr McGrath conceded that it is unlikely that his earlier promise of ratification before Christmas will be fulfilled, but he is determined that will happen "at an early date".


His statement came after people with disabilities protested outside Leinster House for the second time over his admission last week that he could not fulfil his promise, of last August, to ensure the UN Convention was signed by Christmas.


The protesters are angry that this is the only EU member state not to have ratified the document which guarantees equality to people with disabilities and the right to highlight statutory discrimination at a UN monitoring committee.


(Published by on the 7th December 2016)

Jobs Bulletin - Daffodil Care Services


Join the team at Daffodil Care Services, providing a range of residential and community based services through a national network of registered children’s residential centres, semi-independent residential care and community based outreach support.


Daffodil Care are now hiring full time and relief Social Care Leaders and Social Care Workers based in their mainstream and semi-independent residential services in Cork, South Tipperary & Meath.


If you would like to be a part of the team that has a track record in developing therapeutic services and providing unrivalled career development opportunities and training for their staff, then Daffodil Care Services could be the career move you are looking for.


Send your CV to or call 0818 903 984 for further information.


Interviews are now taking place locally for the following vacancies:


Relief Social Care Worker Kells, Co. Meath x1


Social Care Leader, South Tipperary x1


Full Time Social Care Worker, South Tipperary x1


Relief Social Care Worker, South Tipperary x1


Social Care Leader, North Mallow, Cork x1


Full Time Social Care Worker, North Mallow, Cork x1

Tusla asked to fund clearance of child therapy backlog


Tusla asked to fund clearance of child therapy backlog

The Child and Family Agency has said it is open to redirecting funding into the areas of most need but could not confirm that an organisation helping sexually abused children will get the money it says it needs to clear a therapy backlog.

Children At Risk in Ireland (Cari) yesterday launched its 2015 annual report by calling on Tusla to provide one-off funding of €200,000 to help clear a backlog which has resulted in 92 young people waiting for therapy, with waiting times between assessment and therapy now as long as 18 months for some children.

Cari said delays in providing services were particularly acute at a time when there has been a growth in referrals of younger children under 12 displaying dangerously sexualised behaviour.

According to the annual report: “Despite the improved output, waiting lists remain stubbornly high as we have a backlog from the recession and our capacity has not yet reached pre-recession level. In early 2015, Cari approached Tusla for additional funding to meet the needs of these children who were either affected by sexual abuse or were under-12s exhibiting sexually harmful behaviours.

“Cari has met with, not only refusal, but requests to move to new locations without any additional resources. We remain locked in this dispute as we go to press in 2016.

“Meantime, many of these children were getting no service during all that time and others were left with no choice but to access private or non-specialised services. Our campaign for specialised therapeutic services for children affected by child sexual abuse will not let up until we are satisfied that children have access to the same range of specialized services that are available to adults.”

In its response, Tusla said it was discussing funding details with funded agencies as part of its annual process to determine funding arrangements for next year.

According to a spokesperson: “As part of this, Tusla is engaged in on-going discussions and meetings with Cari and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time on the content of these discussions.

“‘Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures’, the national policy framework for children, requires that resources be directed where they can be most effective and meet the greatest need. Tusla is currently developing a commissioning strategy to ensure a clearly defined approach to deciding how to use all resources available to the agency.”

The spokesperson said Tusla’s approach to commissioning is based on an analysis of needs. In all, more than 260 families were supported by Cari last year, with an increase in demand for all its services in 2015 bar its helpline. A wage freeze for staff in place since 2008 remained in place and while state funding reduced by a further 8% in 2015, it still represented 50% of Cari’s income.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 30th November 2016)

Fostered boy was rejected over two years by 28 schools


Ombudsman for Children raises concern over vulnerable children missing education

A 13-year-old boy in foster care was unable to find a school place for two years despite applications to 28 schools in surrounding areas, it has emerged.

The case is contained in a special report by the Ombudsman for Children on difficulties young people have in accessing basic education.

The problems are especially prevalent among young people in State care or those with disabilities who run up against inflexible school policies, according to the Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon.

“Education can take different forms for different children. It is important that children receive education and supports that meet their needs at different times of their lives,” Dr Muldoon said. “This requires an education system to be agile and flexible in taking a child-centred, individual approach at times in response to specific circumstances.”


Two years outside system

In the case of 13-year-old “Ali”, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, made multiple applications to schools across a wide catchment area after he had been “permanently excluded” from his previous school.

In addition, officials made at least one formal appeal to the Department of Education which was unsuccessful.

The department eventually sanctioned nine hours of home tuition a week for the boy, despite the fact the minimum number of instruction hours per week in post-primary school is 28.

When the Ombudsman investigated, the department argued Tusla could appeal to the schools which rejected his application. However, the standard length of time to complete a single Section 29 appeal is two months and two appeals cannot be entered at the same time.

The department also argued the boy’s social workers could seek to increase the number of home tuition hours, although information on the availability of such an option was not freely available.

“Ali” was ultimately given a school place after spending two years outside the system and was reported to have been progressing well, despite a difficult start.


Studying alone

In another case, Shane, a teenager in residential care, ended up without a school placement or home tuition for a full school year.

He had to spend his time alone studying in a public library without professional education support. As a result, he had to defer his Junior Cert exams.

After the Ombudsman investigated, Tusla agreed to produce guidelines on school admissions for children in care, while it piloted a home-tuition scheme in conjunction with the department for children in care without school placements.

Overall, the Ombudsman’s office received almost 800 complaints last year regarding education, or 45 per cent of all complaints received.

Dr Muldoon said providing an education structure that works for all has been the key difficulty in the area of education.

“Over the years we have identified particular problems in accessing adequate education supports for children with disabilities and children in care,” he said,

“We have also seen the impact that the actions of schools can have, in determining whether or not students receive the supports they need.”

He said there was a real issue for children in care, particularly those who have recently entered care or who have moved into a new placement.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 23rd November 2016)

Al Porter praised after revealing stigma of depression


Comedian Al Porter has revealed his struggles with depression and has said the stigma about the condition even forced him to hide his medication after he was prescribed anti-depressants by a doctor.


Speaking on Wednesday night's edition of Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge on RTÉ One, the 23-year-old Tallaght man spoke candidly about the difficulties in coming to terms with a diagnosis of depression.


He said that until recently he hadn't understood the stigma that surrounded mental health issues.

"I've heard friends of mine like Bressie talk about it kind of thinking I can't really get where you are coming from and then I realised someone as confident as me, I'd tell people anything about myself - every detail. I'm an open book", he told the panel.


"I couldn't even admit, yeah I need those pills like, they're going to keep me balanced."


Porter revealed that he went to a doctor to discuss his health, after a friend expressed concern that he was unable to enjoy his on-stage success, which included a nomination Best Comedy Show award at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards and an IFTA Rising Star Award.


However he said that despite being prescribed anti-depressants he was still very reluctant to disclose the fact and had only told his mother two hours before going on air on Cutting Edge that he was taking medication.


"I am going to tell you something now that I didn't even tell my mam until two hours ago and I rang her because I knew I was going to say it to you."


He also revealed that the stigma about depression made him too embarrassed to discuss it with his family doctor.


"So I went to a doctor, wouldn't even go to my own doctor. I went to a doctor in Carlow so I could do outside of Dublin.


"He said. `look you need anti-depressants' and I never thought that I would be that person. And nobody in my family would think that I would be that person."


Porter went on to say that the stigma he felt about his depression also led him to go to great lengths to hide the diagnosis from his family, including concealing his medication and having the prescription written out to different names.


"I have been hiding them in my house, I have had my friend go pick them up because I don't want to go in with the prescription, I've had the prescription written to different names than my own," he said.


He added that his own struggles have made him realise just how difficult it can be for people to deal with mental health issues and be open about them.


"If I can't cope with that, Jesus knows how someone who doesn't have the confidence that I have does and is in their bed for three weeks thinking `who am I going to get to pick them up for me?' At least I've a manager".


With his hands visibly shaking, Porter also produced the medication to show to the panel, and said as a result of taking them he was "functioning much better".


The comedian was widely praised on social media for his honest account of his struggles, including a pat on the back from fellow funnyman Dara O'Briain who said he hoped Al's openess would help to dispel some of the stigma that exists.


Samaritans: ROI (Free Phone) 116123, NI 08457 90 90 90, 24 hour helpline

The Aware Helpline: 1800 804848., 10am to 10pm Seven days a week


(Published by on the 17th November 2016)

One in eight mums-to-be attacked in their home


One in eight women has suffered domestic abuse during pregnancy.


Attacks on mums to be in the home are "particularly common", said Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Rhona Mahony.

They can cause serious harm to women and increase the rates of miscarriage, stillbirth and pre-term birth.


Speaking at the SAFE Ireland Summit in Dublin yesterday, Dr Mahony said pregnant women are more likely to be "assaulted in their abdomen than in their face".

SAFE Ireland aims to transform the culture of gender based violence in Ireland.


"Domestic violence is surprisingly common and particularly common in pregnancy," Dr Mahony said.

"One in eight women, we estimate, suffer from domestic violence during pregnancy."


International figures suggest, on average, that 4pc to 8pc of women suffer significant domestic violence in pregnancy.

It is a higher rate than many of the diseases that maternity hospitals screen for during visits of expectant mothers, she said.


"Domestic violence during pregnancy does real harm to mothers and babies and to those in the family.

"It is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term birth, anxiety and depression.


"In pregnancy, women are more likely to be assaulted in their abdomen than their face. Pregnancy is not protective. In fact, up to 10pc of cases of domestic violence start for the first time during pregnancy or escalate during pregnancy," she said.

Domestic violence affects all parts of society, "including the highly professional, together woman. She also could be hiding a secret and is also scared to tell her story," said Dr Mahony.


Shame and stigma are still felt by victims and many experience numerous attacks before asking for help.

Shattered self-esteem can result in the women using alcohol, drugs or cigarettes as coping mechanisms to try to deal with the painful reality.


The violence causes deep depression and anxiety and can lead women to withdraw from family and friends.

It is vital that these women realise there is no shame in being a victim, she said.


Appointments when women visit maternity hospitals before the birth are a good time to bring up and address the issue of domestic violence.


"This is an ideal time because this is a particularly dangerous time when the women are pregnant," she said.

Staff meet the women on their own so have the chance to ask personal questions.


Even in a busy maternity hospital, women should be asked direct questions about domestic violence, she said.


Dr Mahony also said she would like to see more domestic violence counsellors appointed to maternity hospitals.

"I would like women to know they are not on their own and there is help there," she added.


(Published by the Irish Indepedent on the 16th November 2016)

Teach children online safety ‘soon as they pick up device’


Children should be taught about online safety and digital citizenship “as soon as they pick up a device”, according to a leader researcher on an international study which indicated some vulnerable young people can fall prey to online predators.


The report on online child sexual abuse by a team at Middlesex University London incorporated input from gardai and from young Irish adults. It also looked at data from the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands and found that while young people are engaging online as never before and police forces are struggling to catch up with the challenges that arise.


Overall, the study found the vast majority of respondents ‘never’ had to deal with sexually explicit online requests, while a minority of around 16% of those surveyed said they had received such requests ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’.


Of respondents who had been sexually solicited online, the UK sample came out highest, with over half saying that, when they were between 12 and 16 years of age they were invited to act sexually online. This included being asked for sexual information, photos, or videos, or asked to meet to engage in sexual activities.


All respondents were found to have engaged in some form of risky online behaviour. Some 344 women and 185 men from Ireland, average age of 20, contributed views to the large online survey of more than 1,100 people which also included responses from Italy and the UK.


Looking back on their teenage years, 44% of respondents in Ireland said they had never been sexually solicited online, compared with 53% of respondents in the UK and 39% of respondents in Italy. Of those who had received online sexual messages between the age of 12 and 16, respondents in Italy were more likely to talk to someone about it than those in Ireland. Girls were more likely to be solicited online whereas boys were more likely to engage in risky behaviour such as sexting.


With the vast majority using their phones as their main internet access point, the parents of the UK respondents were significantly more likely to control their youth’s internet access by blocking or filtering.


The report also highlighted concerns over gaps in the law in areas such as grooming, and also conducted qualitative research involving gardaí.


One said: “It’s very difficult to get in gardaí who are anyway qualified in computers, you need somebody who did a computer degree before they joined the job or something like that.”


Julia Davidson of Middlesex University said society needed to tackle the issue of “digital citizenship” and “the work should start almost as soon as they pick up a device”. She added that it should also be an “integral part” of any school curriculum.


The report, ‘Enhancing Police and Industry Practice’ can be accessed at


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 8th November 2016)

Junk food firms using manipulative and covert tech tools to target children


Junk food companies are using clever and manipulative digital marketing tactics to sell their products to children, a major report reveals today.


Foods laden with sugar and salt, which are contributing to high levels of obesity, are being promoted by highly inventive and furtive technology.


But there is little effective regulation of the online world in place to protect children.


The extent of the veiled manner in which children are being targeted is revealed in a report, 'Tackling Food Marketing to Children in a Digital World', published by the World Health Organisation.


Covert means include device fingerprinting - where children are tracked across various devices such as smartphones and iPads. Some use in-device cameras to record facial responses to marketing content.


Word-of-mouth marketing is used where friends make recommendations.


The report pointed out: "Children across Europe access digital media avidly, predominantly on mobile devices, generally favouring social media and video-viewing sites.


"Brands and marketers report that digital marketing amplifies advertising in traditional media, achieving greater ad attention and recall, greater intent to purchase and higher product sales."


Children are also being tempted with more obvious methods such as gifts, games, cartoon characters and competitions.


Parents and children may even be unaware that they are subjected to this advertising.

The digital age allows the control and influence behind the promotion of these sugary and salty foods to reach a new level, including the use of geolocation data.


This means that if people are in an area where a product is being sold that they can get real-time special offers to encourage them to "walk and buy".


Analytics even allow advertisers to know a person's "purchase history", even to the point of their favourite flavour of ice cream.


The World Health Organisation is now calling for urgent action and said offline regulation of marketing these foods to children needs to be extended to all digital environments.


The regulation should cover social media platforms, websites, game platforms and apps. It should also be flexible to incorporate new and evolving digital marketing.


The WHO said it is also necessary to define legal age, rather than leaving it to commercial interests to do so, and a clear minimum age for digital marketing should also be set at 16 years at least.


There needs to be effective enforcement and monitoring of digital marketing restrictions.

Regulatory agencies and policy-makers need to delegate parts of the task to internet platforms, obligating them to remove digital marketing of these foods accessible to children.


To support effective oversight and enforcement by regulatory agencies there needs to be meaningful sanctions introduced for non-compliance.


The health watchdog said these sanctions should apply to both the content creators and the digital platforms that are content intermediaries.


These include the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, and they should face sanctions if they fail to remove the content after they receive a notice, warned the report.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 4th November 2016)

One in two women sexually harassed


Half of Irish women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives, while one in four have been victims of physical violence, according to a major new report.


Data from 56 agencies funded by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, was used in the report which collated information from rape crisis centres and other services.


The Tusla findings also included that one in four adults have experienced physical or sexual assault.


Joan Mullan, a national manager at Tusla, said: "The numbers in the report are not just data, they are the summary of the real life stories of the adults, children and families that frontline services work with."


But in a dramatic twist, the report, the first of its kind in Ireland, provoked a furious backlash from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland last night.


The RCNI raised concerns about the content and accuracy of sections of the report, as well as data protection issues.


Tusla confirmed it had met the RCNI to discuss the concerns and was satisfied the report met required standards.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 28th October 2016)

Pressure growing over discrimination against Travellers


Rights commissioner Emily Logan says human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe plans to visit Ireland


International pressure is set to grow in the coming months about discrimination against Travellers and the failure to recognise Traveller ethnicity, the Chief Human Rights Commissioner has warned.


Emily Logan said the human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe planned to visit Ireland amid concerns about the treatment of Travellers and Roma.


Addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, she said Nils Muižnieks had contacted her on Tuesday evening asking when he could come to investigate. “That is an extraordinary move,” she told the committee.


In addition, Ireland must make a statement to the United Nations next year on racism – including against Travellers – while the European Commission is threatening legal proceedings against the State for discrimination against Travellers.


“So there is an international momentum and concern coming up in the next few months, and for us we want to keep that momentum.”


The committee was hearing submissions on the recognition of Traveller ethnicity. Chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD (Sinn Féin) said the committee was not trying to replace or replicate the work of the last justice committee, which in April 2014 recommended recognition of Travellers ethnicity. The committee stood by that report, he said, and wanted to keep the issue on the political agenda.


Legal barriers

There were no economic or legal barriers to recognising Traveller ethnicity, the committee heard, and several members asked what the outstanding issue was.


Jonathan O’Brien, TD (Sinn Féin) suggested there was “racism” within the “permanent government” [Civil Service].


Asked what benefit recognition of Traveller ethnicity would be, Bernard Joyce, director of the Irish Traveller Movement, said Travellers experienced discrimination “several times a day”.


From a young age many felt “shame” in their identity which was internalised, contributing to high levels of depression, ill-health, low educational attainment, unemployment rates of up to 80 per cent and a suicide rate six times that of the settled community.


Recognition of Traveller ethnicity would be “a start” in restoring a sense of dignity, he said. It would also mean Travellers were included in all anti-racism and inter-cultural policies.


He said the preferred method of recognition would be a statement in the Dáil by the minister for justice or the taoiseach of the day affirming Traveller ethnicity. Ethnicity was self-identified and should be recognised. It was not a gift to be bestowed by the State.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 27th October 2016)

Sad fact is some child sex abusers are only children themselves


Last night's 'Would You Believe' special on RTÉ One once again placed the spotlight on child sexual abuse. While the media has focused on sexual abuse in the context of the Catholic Church, the programme has confronted us with a more unpalatable and hidden truth - the high rate of sexual offending by children under 18.

International estimates suggest that approximately one third of known sex offenders are adolescents. This figure reflects my own research - in a sample of 205 sexually abused children attending two children's hospitals in Dublin, 27pc had been engaged in sexually harmful behaviour by someone under the age of 20.

Who are these teenagers? Siblings, cousins, local teens engaging with younger children while they are out playing, or older siblings of the child's friend. We know that children who are abused within the family find it more difficult to tell, and delay disclosure, and these cases are less likely to make their way to the courts.

Picture how difficult it is for a wife to discover that her husband, whom she loves, has abused her children. If the man that I chose to spend my life with, to have a family with, is capable of this, what does that say about me? Now imagine how much more difficult it is for a parent - a mother or a father - to face up to the reality that one of their children has abused a younger child. The thought for many is abhorrent - so much so that they cannot accept it. They deny even the possibility, making it harder for the young person to own up to their behaviour, and to access the help they so desperately need.

The shame associated with sexual abuse is such that not only do children - and indeed adults - find it difficult to disclose, but even when it is disclosed, it is hard for the family not to want to keep it under wraps. Those who abuse children are seen by our society for the most part as deviant, abnormal 'perverts'. The media portrays such individuals as monsters. What parent would want that for their teenage child? To be shunned as a 'paedo'.

But the teenage boy is still a child, for all his tall frame, stubble and deep voice, he still needs our protection and our support.

As a professional working in the field of child sexual abuse for many years, I have seen first-hand the tragedy of the rejected teenage boy, whose mother feels nauseous each time she looks as him, she is so repulsed by what he has done; whose father cannot look at him at all, finding it impossible to understand how any son of his is capable of such acts; whose neighbours turn away when they see him pass by; whose 'schoolmates' shout "perv" at him in the street. As for the teenage female offender, she is ostracised to the point of oblivion. She 'doesn't exist'.

The incapacity of human beings to recognise that women - and girls - are capable of sexual abuse is a major stumbling block to gathering any reliable information about the scale of female offending.

The reasons why young people engage in sexually harmful behaviour are complex. Emotional immaturity is a factor, poor supervision is another. Young people who have poor coping strategies are vulnerable to engaging in such behaviour. For some, it is a form of bullying.

Exposure to inappropriate sexually explicit material on TV and the internet, and pornographic magazines, doesn't help. We have not served our children well by exposing them to such material. Nor have we progressed much from the traditional 'don't talk about sex' unspoken message that has permeated Irish homes.

We've begun to talk about sexual abuse, but we like to think that it happens out there - by the clergy, in institutions, in other people's homes. It's a distasteful topic, after all. Early detection and psychotherapy for young people - and adults - who sexually offend is an important child abuse prevention mechanism.

In Ireland, we have several projects for teenagers who sexually offend, where young people are met with understanding and parents are supported in helping their teenage children to ensure that other children are kept safe.

So before we judge those families who struggle to face up to the reality of teenage sex offending, let's take a look at ourselves. As an Irish citizen, the question is now: how do I help to make this a society safe from sexual abuse? By pretending it doesn't happen to 'people like me' or is perpetrated by 'children like mine'? How would I respond if my neighbour confided in me that her son had engaged in sexually harmful behaviour with their younger child? Would I reject him? Or try to understand him? Would I judge him? Or ask what I can do to support him? If we are truly to protect our children - both those who have been victimised and those who have offended - we need to wake up, face up and start talking about sex - in all its forms.


Dr Rosaleen McElvaney is a clinical psychologist with extensive experience in the field of child sexual abuse. She is the author of 'Finding The Words: Talking Children Through The Tough Times' (Veritas, 2015) and 'Helping Children To Tell About Sexual Abuse' (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016)


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 21st October 2016)

Daffodil Care 2016 National Conference


Daffodil Care were delighted to host our National Conference in the Clarion Hotel, Limerick City on Friday last, 14th October 2016.

Thanks to all who contributed on the day, which saw a packed room of delegates travel from across the country to hear from speakers.


CEO of Daffodil Care Pat Hayes opened the conference, welcoming both participants and speakers who travelled the length and breadth of Ireland to be with us. Pat gave an overview of the group and the progress achieved over the last year, and also spoke of activities of The Daffodil Foundation, established in 2015. His calls for Direct Provision centres to be run by social care providers was a talking point for many afterwards and was echoed by Caroline O’Sullivan from the ISPCC.


David Coleman, Clinical Psychologist, Broadcaster & Author, spoke on “how young people manage trauma in a care setting”. David informed the audience that he is delighted to be working with The Daffodil Foundation, Pat Hayes and the Daffodil Care group.


Caroline O'Sullivan, Director of Services of the ISPCC, spoke on “Working in Partnership” with Daffodil Care and gave us a detailed introduction to many of the services developed by the ISPCC, including the Missing Children’s Hotline, an Enhanced Service Option targeted at children in state care.


Carlos Kelly, Director of Services of Daffodil Care, gave a detailed presentation “tracking placement outcomes within Daffodil Care” since the company’s foundation.


Philip Mullen, DCYA PhD Research Scholar, spoke of his research on “Outcomes experienced by Care Leavers in Ireland” and highlighted the correlation between social capital and positive outcomes.


Vivian Molloy, Manager, Social Care Training Ireland, spoke on “Learning, and learning – The significance of Continuous Professional Development” and his enthusiasm for Daffodil Care and the opportunities to continuously develop and learn as professionals shone through on the day.


Each of the speakers were well received by the audience, with the questions and answers session at the end being a lively and constructive affair.


A great success all-round. We are already looking forward to 2017.

No dental screening for 16,000 children due to staff shortages and public clinic closures


Some 16,000 children missed their school dental screening last year, because of staff shortages and public clinic closures.


HSE dental surgeons, who also blamed a lack of policy and direction, said their ability to provide an effective service was being undermined.


They fear the public dental service is on the brink of collapse.


Because dental problems are not being identified early, thousands of children, at an average age of six, are undergoing painful operations every year under general anaesthetic, including extractions.


Chief executive of the Irish Dental Association, Fintan Hourihan, who spoke at the HSE dentists’ annual seminar in Athlone yesterday, said that in some parts of the country the number of extractions for children was on a par with the number of fillings.


“The average age for children to undergo extractions under general anaesthetic is six, while some children as young as two require this treatment.


“Some children are having more than nine teeth extracted.”


Mr Hourihan said the population of under-16s has increased by 20%, to 1.1m, but the number of dentists in the public service charged with looking after their oral health has dropped by 20%, because of a recruitment embargo.


That dentists in some areas are pulling almost as many children’s teeth as they are filling is a stark example of how bad the situation has become, he said.


Calling on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to intervene immediately, Mr Hourihan said the situation in Laois/Offaly was “simply shocking”.


In Laois, last year, dentists carried out 1,200 extractions and 1,800 fillings, and, in Offaly, they performed 915 extractions and 1,100 fillings.


“We believe this is a direct result of the collapse of the school screenings in these areas, as children in these counties are not being seen until they are in the first year in secondary school,” said Mr Hourihan.


In Laois, the number of under-16s has increased by 40%, since 2002, but the number of public health dentists has fallen by 42% since 2008.


“Figures for six community care areas, for which exact numbers are available, show that almost 16,000 primary school children missed their school screening last year,” he said.


Mr Hourihan said a partial screening service, at best, was on offer in most other counties.


“In addition, dental clinics are being closed down — two have been closed in Clondalkin, in West Dublin, recently, which is leading to ever-lengthening waiting lists,” he said.


Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation has published its list of pre-Budget demands, which includes the immediate reversal of fee cuts, a new GP contract that extends the range of services, and more acute hospital beds.


IMO president Dr John Duddy said eight key budget recommendations involved more spending, but such investment was needed after years of austerity.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 7th October 2016)

Cultural engagement benefits school children - ESRI


A new study has revealed that children in Ireland who participate in artistic or cultural activities such as drama, dancing, art or music cope better with schoolwork, watch less television, and have a more positive attitude towards school later in life.


Using data from the longitudinal Growing up in Ireland study, it examined arts and cultural participation among three, five and 13-year-olds and was carried out by the ESRI in conjunction with the Arts Council.


It found that just under half of nine-year-olds and one third of 13-year-olds took part in a structured cultural activity outside of school.


Significant socioeconomic and gender differences in the types of cultural activities engaged in by children were identified in the report.


Participation levels in many cultural activities were also found to be lower among children from migrant families, especially at early years and primary stages.


Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Arts Council Director Orlaith McBride said the survey found girls from more advantaged backgrounds have the highest levels of participation in the arts outside regular school time.


She said that parental education and social class impacted how involved children are in such activities, as most are paid for privately, adding that as a national agency the Arts Council would like to see more of these initiatives being provided free of charge.


Young children who are read to frequently have better vocabulary and improved cognitive development by the age of five, the survey found.


It also found among older children, self-directed reading and taking part in structured cultural activities outside school contributed to cognitive development in terms of both verbal and numeric skills as well as to academic self confidence.


(Published by on the 5th October 2016)

Children's Ombudsman shares report detailing complaints they had to deal with last year


The annual report for the Ombudsman for Children’s Office has revealed that they dealt with 1,639 complaints in 2015, arise of 8%.


The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, published the report for 2015 (available at bottom of article) outlining the range of complaints made by, or on behalf of children, across education, health, justice, housing and more.


He said: “Children’s rights in Ireland is an unfinished project.

"I will continue with my team to liaise with all departments and public organisations, to work towards an Ireland where all children and young people are actively heard and respected, so that they can experience safe, fulfilling and happy everyday lives.”


The report also details the work done to promote children’s rights and to ensure that the voice of the child is represented in Government legislation.


Mr Muldoon said: “2015 was another record year for the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), with an 8% increase in the number of complaints received and successful interaction with 850 children and young people. The range of issues dealt with by the OCO emphasises that children’s lives cannot be compartmentalised, that problems can be complicated and that cooperation between all departments is vital to solve problems.


“The work of the OCO in 2015 showed that there is still a long way to go in ensuring that children’s rights in Ireland are fully implemented, and that a significant change is still needed at a Government level to promote a child centred approach in all departments."


He said this was especially evident in their report which spoke directly to children and young people about their experiences.


He said: “One 16-year-old boy with an acquired brain injury expressed his frustration when he said ‘I can’t believe the struggle mammy needed to go to just to get the services I needed put in place’.


“Once again education, at 45%, was the subject of the largest number of complaints received by the OCO in 2015, and the majority specifically related to schools.


“It is my view that the autonomy afforded to Irish schools means that the Government has not been able to exercise the necessary responsibility and oversight. It is time to recalibrate the balance between the autonomy of schools and the oversight by Government to advance and protect children’s rights within the education system."


He revealed that child protection was the next biggest concern.


He said: “In 2015, 25% of complaints received by the OCO related to Family Support, Care and Protection, making it the second highest category. The management of child protection concerns were the most regularly raised issues.


“In dealing with these complaints we experienced repeated and significant delays by TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency."


Third on the list of worries in connection with children was the health sector.


Mr Muldoon reveald: “The health sector was the subject of 14% of our complaints in 2015, up from 11% in 2014. We received complaints about waiting lists for services including hospital procedures, mental health services, speech and language therapy, and psychology.


"Many parents also highlighted the challenges of obtaining services for their children, especially children with disabilities."


In 2015 an Oireachtas working group on protection processes recommended that the remit of the Ombudsman be extended to Direct Provision.


Mr Muldoon said: "This still has not taken place.


“It has been a longstanding position of the OCO that all children, including those in the Direct Provision system, should have access to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office.


“At the end of 2015 Oberstown Children Detention Campus was still not fully operational. In light of recent events at Oberstown, I remain deeply concerned about the impact this is having on the young people in Oberstown, as well as the knock-on effect on the 17 year olds still being detained at Wheatfield Prison."


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 28th September 2016)

Irish teen drinking at a low in European table for alcohol use


Ireland is now near the bottom of the European table for cigarette and alcohol use among Irish teenage pupils thanks to a continuing reduction in the consumption of both substances.


However, the school survey of 15- to 16-year-olds in 35 countries found that Ireland is near the top for use of ecstasy, cocaine, new psychoactive drugs, and inhalants.


The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) said that while Irish school kids were drinking less often, they were still among the heaviest drinkers when they did take alcohol.


The 2015 report, published yesterday, said Irish 15- to 16-year-olds also have one of the highest rates of gambling — a bigger issue among boys.


It also found perceived availability of drugs was highest in Ireland for cocaine, second highest for ecstasy, but around average for both alcohol and cigarettes.


An analysis of ESPAD surveys over the last 20 years show that cigarette smoking among Irish 15- to 16-years olds has more than halved, with significant falls in alcohol and cannabis.


Irish figures for lifetime use (consumption at least once) show:


  • Cigarette smoking has fallen from the highs of 74% in both 1995 and 1999 to just 32% in 2015;
  • Alcohol consumption has dropped from the highs of 92% between 1995 and 2003 to 74% in 2015;
  • Cannabis consumption fell from 39% in 2003 to 20% in 2007 and to 18% in 2011, rising slightly to 19% in 2015;
  • Ecstasy consumption fell from a high of 9% in 1995 to a low of 2% in 2011, rising to 4% in 2015;
  • Cocaine rose from 2% in 1995 to a height of 4% in 2007, falling slightly to 3% in 2011 and 2015;
  • Inhalant use has dropped from a high of 22% in 1999 to a low of 9% in 2011, rising to 11% in 2015.
  • The 2015 report shows that, among the 35 countries surveyed, Ireland is now ranked 30th for lifetime use of cigarettes and 26th for alcohol consumption.


This translates to current usage, with Ireland ranked 29th and 28th respectively.

The report said Ireland was now one of a handful of countries with “low rates” of alcohol use. However Irish teens still consume greater quantities of alcohol when drinking — ranked 5th highest.

In relation to illegal drug use, Irish 15- to 16-year-olds are ranked 2nd for lifetime use of ecstasy and fourth for lifetime use of cocaine.

For new psychoactive drugs, also known in some countries as legal highs, Ireland is ranked 4th for lifetime use and 5th for recent (last year) use. Ireland is in joint 7th for inhalant use.

The situation in relation to cannabis is a bit more mixed, with lifetime use just above the average, and current use (within last 30 days) putting us in 11th position.

Howewver, as regards frequency of use, Irish teens are ranked 3rd, with cannabis used 13 times within the last year.

The 2015 report also looked at gambling and found Irish teens were slightly above average for gambling in the last year, but in 9th place for frequent gambling — with it far more common among boys.

The report said measures to prevent adolescent gambling problems — such as debts, psychological deficits and social disadvantage — were of “high priority”.

Minister of state for health Marcella Corcoran Kennedy welcomed the findings on cigarettes and alcohol, but expressed concern at the easy access to alcohol and the scale of binge-drinking.

Drugs minister Catherine Byrne said tackling the drugs problem continued to be a government priority.

Conor Cullen of Alcohol Action Ireland said: “While it is encouraging Ireland is below the European average in a number of important ESPAD categories, it is also notable that exceptions to this include the number of boys and girls who were drunk in the previous 30 days and the average alcohol intake on the last day of drinking.”


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 21st September 2016)

Why teenagers are dismissing 'out of touch' sex education in Irish schools


Teenage students want a positive approach to sex education in school - one that aims for them to enjoy their sexuality in a way that is safe, consensual, and healthy.


Instead what they get is often negative, focussed on heterosexual relationships, out of touch, and taught by poorly trained, embarrassed teachers, according to a new international study.

Research involving Irish students was among 55 studies that contributed to the findings, published today, by BMJ Open, an online journal of the British Medical Association.


The study is based on the views and experiences of 12-18 year olds in Ireland, UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Iran, Brazil and Sweden, between 1990 and 2015.

Despite the wide geographical reach of the studies, young people's views were remarkably consistent, researchers state.


One theme that emerged was that schools seemed to find it difficult to accept that some students were sexually active.

This, the researchers say, leads to content that is out of touch with the reality of many young people's lives, and a consequent failure to discuss issues that are relevant to them.


"This was evident in what young people perceived as an emphasis on abstinence; moralising; and a failure to acknowledge the full range of sexual activities they engaged in. Sex education was delivered too late, some students felt."

It also led to a failure to deliver practical information, such as the availability of community health services, what to do if they got pregnant, the pros and cons of different methods of contraception, or the emotions that might accompany sexual relationships, the report states.


The second main theme was that schools failed to recognise the distinctive and challenging nature of sex and relationship education, generally preferring to approach it in exactly the same way as other subjects.

Researchers noted challenges such as that "in mixed sex classes young men feared humiliation if they weren't sexually experienced and said they were often disruptive to mask their anxieties, while their female class mates felt harassed and judged by them."


Young people also criticised the overly 'scientific' approach to sex, which ignored pleasure and desire, and they felt that sex was often presented as a 'problem' to be managed.

Stereotyping was also common, with women depicted as passive, men as predatory, and little or no discussion of gay, bisexual, or transgender sex. Young people also disliked having their teachers deliver sex and relationship education, not only because they felt teachers were poorly trained and too embarrassed, but also because of the potential for this to disrupt teacher-pupil relationships and breach boundaries.


Researchers say that schools should acknowledge that sex is a special subject with unique challenges, as well as the fact and range of young people's sexual activity, otherwise opportunities for safeguarding and improving their sexual health will be reduced.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 13th September 2016)

Antidepressant use among children increases by almost 30%


Science festival hears study followed data from 358,000 patients aged between six and 18

Antidepressant prescription to children has increased by nearly 30 per cent over a 10-year period, a new study from Swansea University has found.

Worryingly, these antidepressants were also prescribed to children showing no symptoms of depression but suffering from other afflictions such as anxiety and pain.

“Drugs are being prescribed more, there’s no doubt about that,” said Prof Ann John, leading author of the study and a qualified GP. The results were presented yesterday at the British Festival of Science.

The study followed data from 358,000 patients between six and 18 years old, routinely collected at their GP visits in Wales from 2003 to 2013.

Results showed antidepressant prescribing to children rose by 28 per cent over the study period, especially to adolescents. Prescriptions were three times more likely to be given to girls than boys, and twice more likely to be given to children living in most deprived areas.

Depression diagnoses

Over the same period, new depression diagnoses declined by 28 per cent, while records of depression symptoms more than doubled. Prof John believes that this is due to GPs’ reluctance to give a definite diagnosis of depression to children. She calls this phenomenon “cautious labelling”.

More than half of the children showed symptoms of depression, while other children were given them after presenting with symptoms of anxiety and pain. A small percentage also received the drugs for other disorders such as enuresis, ADHD and autism.

“It may be that we’re overprescribing and over-treating,” Prof John said.

However, she believes the results could also reflect an increase in awareness of depression and the importance of treating it. “This could be an indication of better treatment; people could be getting what they need.”

However, the increase in drug prescription could also be a result of limited access to alternative approaches such as psychological therapies. “Because access [to psychological therapies] can take a few months and you want to do something, you may prescribe a bit too soon,” she said.

Vanesa Martinez is on placement at The Irish Times under the BSA/SFI media fellowship programme


(Published by the Irish Times on the 9th September 2016)

Painting a ‘bleak picture’ of life for Áras Attracta residents


Residents at Áras Attracta lived a “bleak” and “controlled” existence for the convenience of staff, an independent report has found.


Yesterday the HSE published the Independent Report of Áras Attracta Review Group, which came about as a result of the RTÉ’s Prime Time undercover investigation in December 2014, into conditions at the Mayo care centre.


“Overall then, we found what we call widespread institutional conditioning and the control of residents in Áras Attracta, resulting in the limitation in their rights, their choices and their freedom,” Dr Kevin McCoy, chairman of the review group said.


“Institutional conditioning occurs when people living and supported in institutions react, behave and conform to established rituals and rigid routines which are generally imposed for the ease of managing the service and convenience of management and staff,” he stated.


“That results in people having a loss of independence, limited options and poor control over their lives and the lack of a stimulating environment and fulfilling activities,” he added.


Dr McCoy said that from their findings, it meant residents of the Mayo care home spent considerable amounts of time confined to their units with little engagement with the outside world.


“It [institutional conditioning] means residents spending long hours confined in their bungalows and units without any valuable contact with the outside world and a world where the human dignity, privacy and rights of residents were not always respected or catered for.


“So that seemed for us, to paint a fairly bleak picture of life for residents in Áras Attracta,” he said yesterday.


The chair of the review group added that “the findings from our work, as it was at the end of 2015, reflected failures at all levels in the system”.


The group held several meetings with staff and residents at Áras Attracta, as well as their relatives.


Dr McCoy said that for the most part, residents were happy living in the care centre and that the things that mattered most to them were a feeling of safety and the ability to socialise and go and meet their friend or family member in the community.


Some relatives were also satisfied with the quality of care however, some did express concerns during the interview process.


“Other relatives shared common concerns with regard to the level of quality of day-to-day activities; the overall management of the service; a culture that did not encourage people to speak out; poor communication; and lack of involvement in personal planning,” Dr McCoy said.


He also explained yesterday about the staff’s reaction to the events at Áras Attracta as portrayed in RTÉ’s Prime Time undercover investigation.


“The events in ‘Bungalow 3’ and indeed the attention and publicity have had a profound effect on staff.


“They were shocked, horrified and embarrassed about what had happened and many also felt hurt, angry and ashamed.


“Overall, the staff was highly critical of many aspects of the service, some of which were historical and others related to more recent developments. Their criticism focused on a lack of leadership and poor management and oversight,” Dr McCoy said.


The head of the review group then stated that the care model of Áras Attracta does not promote independence and it fails to respect people’s basic dignities.


“The current model of service delivery at Áras Attracta is one that promotes dependence over independence, it doesn’t equip people to make decisions about their lives, nor does it take account of an individual’s talents or potential.


“Basically, what it does is it fails to respect the dignity and rights of individuals and those are all characteristics of an institutional congregated setting,” he noted.


Minister for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath, said there is still a “huge amount” of work to be done.


“This report makes it clear that while there have been many improvements since then, there is still a huge amount to be done,” he said.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 7th September 2016)

€185 per child each year would deliver free primary education, says Barnardos


It would cost the Government €185 per child per year to deliver free primary education, according to the children's charity Barnardos.


The money would pay for school books, uniforms, well-equipped classrooms and free transport for those availing of the school scheme, the charity says.


It would also remove the need for parents to pay voluntary contributions and would ensure that schools had enough funds to meet running costs.


Barnardos has put the overall cost to the Exchequer at €100m per year, as it launched a campaign for free primary education.


According to the charity, the State pays €470.5m per year towards the cost of primary and post-primary schooling. An extra €103m per year would make primary education free and a further €127m would do the same at second-level, it claims.


Barnardos said the Government had a constitutional obligation to make primary education free for all children.


Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said the evidence from its annual school costs survey, which has been running for a decade, "clearly contradicts the persistent myth that Ireland has free education".


He said that fulfilling children's right to free primary education was "the constitutional responsibility of the Government and one they have shirked for too long. A right is not a right if you have to pay for it."


Mr Finlay described the investment required - €185 per pupil per year - as minuscule, but said the benefit to children and society would be immense.


"It's a question of prioritising resources to get maximum effect. The first budget of the new Partnership Government will be published this autumn as Ireland firmly emerges from a bitter recession which has left one in nine children living in consistent poverty. Now is the time for this Government to take a bold move and make free primary education a reality," said Mr Finlay.


Barnardos Head of Advocacy June Tinsley said the practice in Northern Ireland and other UK jurisdictions showed how to implement a truly free primary education system and "what is needed now is the political leadership to make it happen".


She said it was 50 years since then Minister for Education Donogh O'Malley announced the introduction of free education up to post-primary level.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 2nd September 2016)

Shining a light on mental health


A major summit will shine a light on mental health issues this October.


Organised by White Diamond Events, the 'Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit' will take place during mental health awareness week on October 14 in the Aviva Stadium.

Several of the speakers attended its launch at l'Ecrivain Restaurant in Dublin, owned by Derry and Sallyanne Clarke, who tragically lost their son Andrew to suicide.


Rugby pundit Brent Pope, who will speak at the summit, also opened up about his own struggles.

"For so long in my life I was ashamed that I had this dirty little secret, that I had mental health problems," said Brent. "Behind closed doors I was a very nervous, anxious person. I was ashamed because I felt that I couldn't put it right. At times I couldn't handle the crippling fear that it had on me on all aspects of my life."


Brent said that his mental health struggles are not something that just goes away, but that seeking support does help.

He added: "I want young people especially to get help and have the strength to do that. People will care and love for you. I have to work on it every day."


Singer Niall Breslin will be among the contributors.

Organisers said there will be a focus on people who support those suffering from mental illness.


"All too often, this is overlooked - but that will not be the case at this summit as an entire workshop is being dedicated to family and friends," said spokeswoman Dearbhla Meaney.

"Never before have such a diverse group of people come together under one roof to discuss this hugely topical issue, which can only be a good sign for cohesion in the mental health sector."


Tickets from


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 26th August 2016)

Tusla: 21% fall in cases awaiting allocation


The Child and Family Agency says it improved its services for young people last year “with limited resources” and despite having received 43,596 referrals.


Launching its 2015 annual report Tusla said there had been a 21% reduction of cases awaiting allocation to a social worker compared with figures for 2014, with a 65% reduction of high priority cases awaiting allocation to a social worker in the same period.


There was a total of 6,388 children in care last year, 93% of whom were in foster care, while 1,835 young adults were in receipt of aftercare. Almost one-third of those in foster care were being cared for by a relative.


However, while there were 4,445 foster carers approved on the panel of foster carers at the end of last year, there was a total of 57 monitoring visits carried out across Tusla regions to assess compliance with the National Standards for Foster Care.


There were 327 children in general residential services at the end of last year, 98% of whom had an allocated social worker; and 16 out-of-state placements.


The report also outlines how last year a total of 43,596 referrals were made to child protection and welfare services, with 42% of these relating to abuse/neglect and 58% linked to child welfare issues. At the end of 2015, there were 26,655 open cases of which 75% were allocated to a social worker — up from 69% in 2014.


It also revealed that 195 complaints were lodged with Tusla last year under a new National Incident Management System (NIMS), and that a quarter of these related to Tusla assessments and reports, “in particular alleged failures to take into account the concerns of family members or to consider all the evidence available”.


Director of EPIC (Empowering People In Care), Jennifer Gargan, said this reflects concerns raised by young people at its National Advocacy Service over the “the suitability or appropriateness of their placement”. She added that aftercare provision is still inconsistent across the country.


The ISPCC also welcomed signs of progress but said some areas are in need of attention. Its chief executive, Grainia Long, said: “Despite the progress in regards to the reduction in the number of allocations, there remains 6,718 children awaiting a social worker while the number of high priority cases awaiting allocation stands at 999. A lot more progress is needed in this area.”


Last year was the second full year of operations for Tusla and its CEO, Fred McBride, said: “At a difficult time and with limited resources, Tusla made a strong start to introducing reforms, transforming services and ultimately improving outcomes for children.”


He has already claimed that Tusla is on course to meet its targets for this year, although the most recent monthly data, for May 2016, shows that there were more than 1,000 high priority open cases still awaiting allocation to a social worker, including 304 waiting for more than three months.


The figures for May show many areas were still short of the target for having an allocated social worker, particularly those in relative foster care, with increases in absenteeism among residential care staff and a €1.6m overspend by last May.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 24th August 2016)

Nine deaths ‘not linked’ to Tusla services


The deaths of nine young people, who had been in the Irish care system, were not as a result of the services they had received.


The National Review Panel (NRP) yesterday published its reports into the deaths.


All of the children and young people were known to Tusla, the child and family agency, as they had all been in receipt of care at one time, or another, in their lives.


The reports published by the NRP found Tusla had no responsibility whatsoever in any of the deaths of the young people.


However, several recommendations were made in relation to the provision of mental health services for young people in care.


“While Tusla has no jurisdiction over the provision of mental health services, this composite review has highlighted some difficulties, particularly for young people suffering from diagnosed mental illness who are about to enter, or have entered aftercare.


“These include the dearth of suitable accommodation, inconsistent access to mental health services and limited treatment options. It is recommended that Tusla, through the Children First Interdepartmental Committee or another suitable channel, continue to press for a resolution of these matters,” said Dr Helen Buckley who chaired the NRP.


The reports also listed key learnings, one of which related to the adequate assessment of young people who have come to the attention of the State’s care service.


“Central to good practice is the need to complete a comprehensive assessment of the child and family in a timely manner.


“This should take account of the multiple adversities such as domestic violence, substance abuse, poor mental and physical health, that can impact on parenting capacity. It must be recognised that inadequate assessment undermines the potential for effective planning,” reads one of the NRP reports.


Cormac Quinlan, Tusla’s interim director of policy and strategy, said the agency is taking steps to address the recommendations in the reports.


“Whilst the reports highlight that the deaths were not as a result of the quality of services received, Tusla continues to be committed to the constant improvement of the services we provide.


“Tusla is already taking steps to address the recommendations of the reports including the finalisation of a protocol regarding communication with professionals and families on the death of a child, the development of specialist services for children displaying sexualised behaviour and the enhancement of our current child protection and welfare assessments,” said Mr Quinlan.


Empowering People in Care (EPIC) said the reports highlighted gaps in care services.


“One of the key findings from these reports highlights the need for co-ordination and co-operation of services, in particular, between Tusla, mental health and disability services,” director of Epic, Jennifer Gargan said.


“There needs to be clarity around the key responsibility of each organisation identifying which organisation is the lead organisation particularly when a young person at the age of 18 is transitioning out of care.”


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 17th August 2016)

6,000 drug needles found in tiny Dublin city centre park every year


A special needle disposal bin has been placed in the park to help combat the problem.


Up to 6,000 needles are found in just one tiny Dublin city centre park every year – with tourists regularly coming across recently-discarded hypodermic needles, and stumbling upon scenes of open drug use.


Between 15 and 20 needles are found on the half-hectare site each day according to workers at St Audoen’s Park, which houses the city’s only remaining medieval parish church.


It lies along a well-trodden tourist route between Christ Church Cathedral and the Guinness Storehouse – two of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.




The gates of the park are closed at weekends, which is when the heaviest drug use happens. On a Monday morning, it wouldn’t be unusual to find dozens of discarded needles in the grass and around the walls of the church, the workers said.


Cameras in hand, tourists regularly stroll into the park to take in the view – often running into people actively injecting, in alcoves and down stairwells around the church grounds.


Drug bins


As part of a drive to reduce drug litter in the area, a specially designed needle disposal bin has been placed in the park since January. One of two such bins in the city, it’s regularly monitored by organisations who work with the the city’s habitual drug users, and emptied regularly.


And while over 8kg of paraphernalia, including needles, has been deposited in the two bins since they were put in place at the start of the year, campaigners who spearheaded the pilot scheme reckon there needs to be a further roll-out of the project – as part of a range of measures to combat the city’s drug problem.


The Ana Liffey Drug Project’s Tony Duffin, who spoke to at the park this week, has also been campaigning for a supervised injecting centre in the city.


“There’s been an evaluation of the two bins that were placed in Dublin city centre,” Duffin said.



“The evaluation’s found they have been a success. They’re not a solution. They don’t get rid of all the drug paraphernalia in the area. But it does improve the situation and it does improve the health and safety of people who visit the park or people who work in the park and obviously people who might be injecting in the park as well.


Based on the latest research, Duffin says there’s evidence that around 400 people inject in the public domain in Dublin each month. “Although that could be a conservative estimate.”



Aside from their narrow openings and bio-hazard warning signs, the bins appear otherwise unremarkable. No other signage is placed in the area around them, but habitual drug users who frequent centres like the Ana Liffey on Abbey Street and Merchants Quay Ireland on the south of the river are informed of their locations, and encouraged to use them.


Needles placed in the bin’s narrow opening drop down into a resealable container, which is taken away by park staff and disposed of at a safe location.


“It’s a common sense idea,” one Dublin City Council staff member at the park said.



“We are still collecting the usual amount of paraphernalia, but because a lot if it is now placed in the bin it has reduced the amount of needles left around, especially on the walls.”


“Any needle in that bin isn’t on the ground.”


The assessment of the pilot project found that the bins work for their intended purpose and are contributing to reducing drug litter.


While it’s yet to be officially decided whether the scheme will be expanded, it’s been recommended that any further bins placed around the city would be smaller and more discrete.


“My understanding is that the City Council are looking for more sites in appropriate areas – particularly on the north side of the city now, because there are hot-spots, if you like, of public injecting within the city centre,” Duffin said.


The current bins, which cost €480 each to manufacture, are made in Dublin by Taltech Engineering.


Injecting centre


Meanwhile, the Government is expected to progress legislation to allow for medically-supervised injection centres in the next Dáil term.


Proponents of the idea argue that such facilities would cut down overdose deaths dramatically, stem the spread of diseases like HIV and reduce levels of crime and anti-social behaviour.


“I hope that politicians do not play politics with it,” Duffin said.



“It’s very important that these services get opened quickly. It’s impacting really negatively on Dublin and the people of Dublin and the visitors – so it’s imperative we get the legislation changed so we can get the services up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible.”


It may take until the end of next year before the country’s first centre opens.


(Published by on the 12th August 2016)

Bereaved parents to benefit from new care standards


Parents whose child has died during pregnancy or before reaching full term are set to benefit from crucial new national standards in the wake of a series of scandals in the system.


Health Minister Simon Harris and HSE director general Tony O’Brien will launch the new “standards for bereavement care following pregnancy loss and perinatal death” at an event this morning in a bid to address a lack of uniformity in how families affected by the personal tragedies are treated by hospitals.


Under the current system, hospitals provide varying degrees of bereavement counselling to an estimated 14,500 grieving parents who have suffered a stillbirth or seen their child days moments after pregnancy.


However, under the new initiative, national standards will be introduced to ensure all parents affected get identical care including those who have been affected by a fatal foetal abnormality or who have travelled abroad for an abortion. The new standards have been devised in the wake of pregnancy tragedies, including last year’s Portlaoise Hospital crisis and the case taken by Amanda Mellet to the UN committee on human rights.


In the Portlaoise, Co Laois, cases a number of women complained of how they were treated after losing a baby, including one woman who was handed her child’s remains in a shoebox.


The Mellet case involved a woman who travelled to Britain to terminate her pregnancy due to a fatal foetal abnormality. After returning to Ireland, Ms Mellet sought bereavement counselling from the Rotunda Hospital but was refused. A UN report found the Irish woman had been subjected to discriminatory, cruel, and degrading treatment.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 10th August 2016)

20% of children have suffered cyberbullying


One in five Irish children has been bullied online, according to research.

Of these children who experienced cyberbullying, one third also reported feelings of depression related to the abuse.

The research shows gross inconsistencies between parents’ reporting of child cyberbullying, as only one in ten adults said their son or daughter had been a victim of cyberbullying.

According to the research, 51% of the online bullying happens to children on Facebook; some 14% said they had been bullied on Instagram.

Approximately 29% of girls said they had been bullied on Snapchat, while 16% of boys reported being harassed on this platform.

These reports are despite all three social media platforms claiming to have robust reporting procedures in place to deal with this type of behaviour.

As well as surveying 186 children, the survey took information from 1,000 adults.

Of the adults surveyed, one in ten said they had been bullied online.

The bullying of women is more prevalent, with one in four reporting having been body-shamed online.

The online bullying related to numerous behaviours, with one third of people saying that someone had spread lies or rumours about them on the internet.

Some 18% of respondents said an embarrassing photograph of them had been posted online and 35% reported receiving threatening text messages or emails.

In terms of the platforms that adults experienced abuse on, 68% of respondents said the bullying happened on Facebook.

People were also asked how they dealt with the harassment — “unfollowing” or “unfriending” was the main action taken that victims had taken.

The research, carried out by ZenithOptimedia, was conducted to examine the safety of the internet and the prevalence of online bullying and body-shaming in Ireland.

“We are seeing significant decreases in levels of empathy in adolescent-aged young people,” said clinical psychotherapist Joanna Fortune.

“There are a number of factors that contribute to this, ranging from short-circuited early play stages to an immersion in a virtual and online world where nothing feels real.”

Ms Fortune, who works with children and adolescents in her practice, Solamh, said: “What this means is that I see a photo you post of yourself online and I comment that you look like a troll. Then I log off and go about my life and I do not pause to consider that when you log on and read what I wrote that you will have an emotional response that I am, at least in part, responsible for.

“As a result of decreasing empathy and reflective functioning we are seeing higher incidences of online bullying and lower self-esteem in this demographic than ever before.”


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 3rd August 2016)

Joint action will seek damages for victims of sex abuse in schools


A group of solicitors from around the country are coming together to win damages against the State, for people sexually abused in Irish primary schools.


They will represent a group of 75 survivors who were abused as children in Irish primary schools.


This action comes on foot of a High Court ruling in May, when five victims were refused the right to sue the Department of Education and the State for failing to protect them as children.


“We are going to appeal this and we are also in discussion with many lawyers throughout the country, with a view for all people affected by this judgement, to appeal it.”

“We are not criticising the judge but it’s the vindication of our clients’ rights that we have in mind,” David Coleman of Coleman Legal Partners told the Irish Examiner yesterday.

This case could see a repeat of the landmark European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in 2014 in favour of Cork woman Louise O’Keeffe.

Ms O’Keeffe was abused by school principal Leo Hickey while she was an eight-year-old pupil at Dunderrow NS in Kinsale in 1973.

Ms O’Keeffe went as far as the ECHR to seek justice, arguing that the State was liable, as the Department of Education had failed to put in place appropriate protection measures.

The ECHR found that the State was in breach of its obligation to protect schoolchildren from sexual abuse and to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“If necessary we will find ourselves in Europe, so be it, but it is wrong to put these people through this ringer when there’s a simple solution that can be had,” said Mr Coleman.

One of his clients, Cork man John Allen, 53, was in the High Court yesterday to hear whether the State was going to pursue him for costs in relation to the May ruling. Lawyers for the State said they were not seeking costs.

When Ms O’Keeffe lost her case in the Irish Supreme Court in 2008, the State Claims Agency wrote to all similar victims asking them to cease litigation or else face being pursued for hundreds of thousands of euro in legal fees. Mr Allen was one of these victims who signed a ‘notice of discontinuance’ to cease litigation.

However, when Ms O’Keeffe won in Europe, Mr Allen and four other victims tried to have their notices of discontinuance set aside. They failed in this attempt in May.

“There are other areas that people can deal with this in a satisfactory manner and I would ask that the State engage with the finite number of people, who are old in years,” said Mr Coleman. “They’ve been at this case for years, seeking to vindicate their rights.”

Speaking to the Irish Examiner yesterday, Ms O’Keeffe praised the survivors and solicitors for their joint action.

“I commend them,” she said. “I believe they shouldn’t have to do it because the judgment from Europe is there.

“The State did not have a system in place [to protect children in primary schools] and that’s why we were abused. In the Ryan Report [The Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, published in May 2009], it says the State were aware that abuse was happening in our primary schools from the 1940s.”


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 29th July 2016)

Adults seeking help for childhood sex abuse


More adults in midlife are seeking help for childhood sexual abuse, and some have never been able to talk about it before.


The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s incoming chief executive, Noeline Blackwell, said there was a resurgence in calls last year relating to sexual abuse.


“Some of the people who are disclosing childhood sexual abuse have never been able to talk about it and have gone through their lives with that burden,” she said.


The DRCC wants the Dáil to implement the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill when it returns in the autumn.


The legislation, given priority status when reintroduced by the Government, is aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation, child pornography, and online grooming.


“The fact that about half of the counselling and therapeutic work of the centre is with adults who have suffered abuse as children makes our call for better protection for today’s children even more urgent,” said Ms Blackwell.


“The Sexual Offences Bill that tackles internet abuse, which is still not illegal in Ireland, will give today’s children a much better chance of staying safe than they have right now.”


At the launch of the DRCC’s 2015 annual report today, head of clinical services Angela McCarthy will give an overview of the centre’s therapy and counselling work.


“Compared with 2014, 2015 saw a resurgence in calls relating to childhood sexual abuse, with a small decrease in calls relating to adult sexual violence,” said Ms McCarthy.


“We have seen an increase in adults in midlife looking for therapy for childhood sexual abuse, often after many years of suffering and silence.”


In 21% of all incidents of childhood sexual abuse, additional violence was disclosed, predominately psychological abuse, harassment, or intimidation and physical abuse.


Ms McCarthy said a 16% increase in the number of people contacting the national 24-hour helpline for the first time last year had resulted in growing pressure for face-to-face therapy, to a point where demand exceeded available resources.


Figures released by the DRCC show that last year, almost 12,000 people contacted the organisation’s national helpline and over half were calling it for the first time about rape or sexual abuse.


Ms Blackwell said while the number of calls made to the helpline last year had been similar to 2014, they were becoming more complex.


Volunteers staffing the helpline, particularly at night and during the weekend, had noticed a sense of hopelessness, with callers also struggling to access housing and other services.


Just over half of calls were about adult sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, with the remainder (49%) relating to childhood sexual abuse, including ritual abuse.


Most callers (95%) were Irish, and the remainder represented 57 other nationalities.


In 24% of all incidents of adult rape or sexual assault, there was additional violence, predominantly physical abuse, psychological abuse, and harassment or intimidation.


Among the 318 cases where the reporting status was known, 113 were reported to gardaí, a reporting rate of 36%.


More than a third related to childhood sexual abuse.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 27th July 2016)

Lack of mental health resources harms children, says ISPCC



Thousands of children are struggling to cope with mental health problems due to the failure to properly resource emergency and acute services.


In its annual report for 2015, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the lack of investment in prevention and early intervention for at-risk children meant demand for services were reaching “crisis point”.


“We can point to many examples of children being adversely affected by a lack of 24-hour social work services. Demand for emergency and acute services means that, as a nation, we continue to under-resource prevention and early-intervention — so with each passing week, children in need of support are having those needs ignored. We are rapidly reaching crisis point,” said the report.


The society said that, in some cases, children are waiting as long as 18 months for referral to a child psychologist.


The report pointed out that, in 2015, the ISPCC’s Childhood Support Service experienced “huge demand” and worked with 439 individual clients.


The service provides a one-to-one child-centred service for children and young people in their own home or place of the child’s choosing, and has been running for 20 years.


The primary reasons for referral to the service were for behavioural support (24%) and parental separation (13%).


The main source of referral was from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (32%), the educational sector (30%), and parents (23%).


One of the primary reasons for referral to the service was issues arising for children as a result of parental separation. The report noted that the processes surrounding this separation were increasingly emerging as a source of anxiety for children.


The system of mediation, the courts and legal process, and the lack of the voice of the child in this system, were all issues identified.


ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long said these services were not child-centred, despite legislation arising from the children’s rights referendum now being in place.


“The family courts system, custody and access processes and even mediation process are not child-centred, the voice of the child is often not heard in these situations and children’s emotional well-being can be affected. There is no early-stage intervention, and so referrals often occur late in the process when cases are at extreme stages,” she said.


“There is a clear need to address the deficiencies in the process, in the support systems available and in the courts systems that do not enable the voice of the child to be heard in these situations,” she said.


Ms Long said the goal of its support services was to increase the child’s psychological resilience so they can cope with any issues they encounter.


“Issues in children’s lives such as bullying, parental separation etc, can upset a child’s world; we help them to pick up the pieces and support them with putting them back together again,” she said.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 22nd July 2016)

Minister promises Commission of Investigation into residential care of disabled


The Minister for Disabilities has promised to set up a Commission of Investigation into the care of people with disabilities in residential settings.



Finian McGrath's told the Dáil that the cases exposed in recent weeks have given him "cause for concern".


He was speaking while putting through legislation that will give residential centres an extra two years to reach the standards demanded by the Health Information and Quality Authority.



Minister McGrath said that he hopes the investigation into residential care centres will be given all-party support in the Dáil.



"I'm expecting to receive the report from Conor Dignam, senior counsel, very shortly, which will feed into the terms of reference for a statutory Commission of Investigation," he said.



"This will be established as a priority, following agreement on the terms of reference, and with the approval of the Oireachtas.



"I will be looking for support, cross-party support for this, in relation to the Commission of Inquiry and also in relation to the terms of reference."


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 20th July 2016)

Hiqa: 1,800 abuse claims in one year


Almost 1,800 allegations of suspected or confirmed abuse of people living in centres for adults and children with disabilities were reported last year.


In its annual overview report for 2015 on the regulation of such centres, the Health and Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) said regulation has brought a cultural change to the sector and has “steadily led to improvements” in the standard of care provided to residents.


Hiqa said that, in 2014, initial inspections showed a lack of understanding within the sector on how to meet the requirements of the regulations and the standards.


In particular, it found that residents living in many large congregated settings were not being “adequately protected or kept safe”. These institutionalised care practices that had been ongoing for years were having an adverse impact on the quality of life for residents, it reported.

However, Hiqa said the inspection process had contributed to a greater understanding of the poor standard of care and support in some large, congregated settings.


“This has been recognised by the Government, and in 2016 there was a commitment of resources to escalate the movement of residents from inappropriate, congregated setting to more appropriate living arrangements,” said the report.


Hiqa inspected 561 of the 937 designated centres for adults and mixed centres for adults and children with disabilities in 2015. There were 741 inspections in total.


Overall, Hiqa inspectors found evidence of a high standard of care in 2015, with some providers found to provide an excellent standard of care.


Of inspection reports published in 2015, 49 inspections did not identify any actions required while a further 208 inspections required less than 10 actions.


However, Hiqa pointed out that it was forced to take formal enforcement procedures in respect of four centres during 2015.


In one of the centres, it applied to the court to cancel the registration of the centre. The HSE then became responsible for the operation of the centre.


Hiqa applied to the court to have additional restrictive conditions on the registration of three other centres.


During 2015, providers submitted 10,422 notifications to Hiqa relating to incidents and concerns about centres for adults and mixed adults and children with disabilities.


Of these, 1,799 related to any allegation, suspected or confirmed, of abuse of any resident with 1,310 referring to any serious injury to a resident which required immediate medical or hospital treatment.


Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on disability, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, said the report highlighted that speedier action was needed in relation to people with disabilities living in a congregated settings.


“The recommendations made through the 2011 HSE report on congregated settings are yet to be implemented. This Hiqa report again recommends that ‘congregated settings’, or institutions with 10 residents or more, should be replaced with supported placements in the community,” said the Cork South West TD.


“It’s estimated that approximately 3,000 people with a disability were living in congregated settings as of December 2014. Not much has been achieved in moving people into a community-based environment since then.”


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 15th July 2016)

Sending child to primary school costs €1,000, study finds


Credit union survey finds 25% of parents likely to struggle with bills in coming months


As many as one in eight parents say they will have to sacrifice spending on food in the weeks ahead to cover the cost of sending their children back to school in September, according to a new survey.


The research from the Irish League of Credit Unions also shows rising education costs will mean one in four households with school-going children are likely to struggle to pay bills on time over the coming months.


The average cost of sending a child to a non-fee-paying primary school in the coming year will be just under €1,000, while the cost of a “free” education in any of the State’s secondary schools will climb to almost €1,500.


When the cost of uniforms, books, lunches, extracurricular activities, school trips, “voluntary” contributions, transport and sports gear are totted up, parents of children in the primary system will spend an average of €967 per child, according to the research. Parents of secondary school children will spend an average of €1,474 per child.


The survey of 1,000 nationally representative adults found extracurricular activities to be the most expensive element for primary school children, having jumped sharply year on year. The cost of uniforms remains the most costly item for secondary school children.


Extracurricular activities


The parents of primary school children said they would spend an average of €189 on extracurricular activities per child this year, up from €131 in 2015. Secondary school parents said they expected to spend an average of €180, up from €137 last year.


The cost of uniforms for younger children has fallen slightly, with parents saying they will spend €145 this year compared with €166 last year. Uniforms in secondary school, meanwhile, will cost an average of €234 this year, down from the €258 they cost last year.


Books were the next most expensive item, with primary school parents saying they would spend €94, down slightly from the €106 spent last year. Secondary school parents said they would spend €214, up €1 on last year’s figure. In 2014, the cost of secondary school books was put at €166.


School lunches will cost €129, up from €116 in 2015, while the cost of lunches for secondary school children is put at €166 per child, up from €147.


Controversial “voluntary” contributions will be made by 79 per cent of parents, with the average amount sought by schools coming in at €118 per child, up from €112 in 2015


Overall, 81 per cent of parents of school-going children said the costs were a significant burden with 31 per cent likely to get themselves into debt.


(Published by the Irish Times on the 13th July 2016)

Children of heavy drinkers ‘suffer in silence’


Many children whose parents are heavy drinkers grow up worrying about their siblings’ health and safety, while others report being unable to sleep at night because of parents’ partying or recount being verbally and physically abused by drunk parents, according to the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC).


Speaking at a Leinster House briefing outlining how harmful drinking affects children, chair of the Oireachtas cross-party group on alcohol harm, senator Frances Black, said children living with parents who drink excessively often “suffer in silence”.


“The wide range of harms that are caused to children as a result of harmful drinking in the home is known as ‘hidden harm’, as the harm is not often visible in public and largely kept behind closed doors,” she said.


“These vulnerable children do not know where to turn for help, and the impact of harmful parental drinking has a deep and long-lasting impact.”


Barnardos head of advocacy June Tinsely said the “negative impact alcohol has on family functioning” is too often underestimated.


Alcohol Action Ireland previously revealed that a national audit of child neglect cases showed alcohol misuse by parents was a factor in 62% of neglect cases.


The cross-party group is backing the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which aims to reduce our high levels of alcohol consumption in Ireland.


ISPCC CEO Grania Long said the organisation sees the bill as a “key step in helping to change our attitude to, and relationship with, alcohol,” and said: “Children and young people have repeatedly told us they want their exposure to alcohol reduced — it is our responsibility to deliver on their aspirations.”


The ISPCC said regular heavy drinking by parents damages the child’s relationship with their parent, causes a child to live with undue stress, and, if the addiction is severe, can lead to child neglect.


Barnardos also reported how parental alcohol abuse can place an undue burden on older children who have to get their younger siblings up in the morning, for example, as their parents are too unwell to care for them.


Barnardos said that while the impact of heavy drinking on children varies depending on the frequency and severity of the alcohol misuse, it can result in children feeling confused and rejected by a cycle of broken promises.


Ms Tinsley said children living with parents with an alcohol addiction experience irregular and inconsistent parenting.


“It can affect their school life with children of parents with chronic alcohol problems more likely to have problems at school in terms of learning difficulties, reading problems, poor concentration, and generally low performance,” she said.


Ms Long warned: “Parental behaviour influences that of a child and no more so than in relation to alcohol. ISPCC support workers particularly point to occasion-related drinking as affecting children, such as around Communion and Confirmation time.”


The Government’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill proposes minimum unit pricing which would mean most cans of beer would cost €2 while a bottle of wine with 11.5% volume of alcohol would cost over €8.


Under the bill, alcohol advertising would be banned near schools, playgrounds, and at bus and train stations. A broadcasting watershed is also planned.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 7th July 2016)

79% of under-4s fed over-sized portions, poll finds


Parents are being warned not to over-feed their children after research found around one in 10 regularly serves up adult-sized portions of popular meals.


The poll of 1,000 parents also found that 79% of children aged one to four are often given more than the recommended portion size for their age.


The Infant and Toddler Forum (ITF), which commissioned the research, is warning that parents are increasing the chances their children will become obese.


As part of the study, parents looked at pictures of food to select the portion sizes they give their children, and were asked how often they give children certain foods.


The photos included snacks such as oatcakes and cheese, and popular meals such as spaghetti bolognese.


The results showed that around one in 10 parents usually serve their child close to an adult-size portion of spaghetti bolognese or cheese sandwiches.


Overall, 10% of all respondents gave snack portions that were too high. When it came to looking at pictures of cheese and oatcakes, 27% selected a portion size that was too big.


Some 71% of parents also routinely offered their child a bigger portion of crisps than recommended.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 6th July 2016)

Living with mental illness: Meeting a psychiatrist for the first time


Fiona Kennedy shares her experiences as a public patient in the Galway Adult Mental Health Services


No more than meeting a therapist for the first time, meeting a psychiatrist can seem overwhelmingly daunting, not least because we’re conditioned to believe a number of things about psychiatry:

•It’s only for crazy people

•All they’ll do is prescribe drugs

•They’re in league with big pharma

•They’re quacks


And on and on it goes. When psychiatry was first mentioned to me I nearly lost my life, primarily because I firmly believed it must have meant there was something seriously wrong with my mind.


Four years ago I reached the point where I had no choice but to attend, and so began my adventures with the Galway Adult Mental Health Services.


As with every aspect of our health service, there is a gaping chasm in terms of provision between public and private. As I attend Galway as a public patient, and have done since my first admission in 2012, I can only comment on the public side of things. 


The world of psychiatry for a public patient is a confusing one. As I understand it (and I’m open to correction on this) each patient is assigned to a team, with the team consisting of a consultant, registrars on rotation, psychologists, clinical nurse specialists, community mental health nurses and social workers. There may be others, but these are who I have encountered over the years.


During the time that I’ve been engaged with psychiatric services, I’ve lost count of the number of doctors I’ve met, albeit all under the management of one consultant. The majority I only saw once or twice before they rotated elsewhere.


One of the biggest challenges this created was that I believed every time I met a new doctor they knew nothing about me. It never occurred to me that my case may already have been discussed at team meetings, that they had the background necessary, and were simply trying to gauge how I was on any given day.


However, with hindsight I can appreciate that this perception was probably more than a little skewed. One of the many difficulties of being mentally unwell is that we tend to see the world through a very distorted filter. What I mean by this is I was hearing a group of words but interpreting it according to how I felt at the time, if I even managed to take anything from it at all.


If I wanted to believe they didn’t care and knew nothing about me, there’s not a force on this earth could have convinced me otherwise.


There’s one thing I cannot recommend highly enough – if at all possible take someone with you to these appointments, particularly the first one. When we’re feeling vulnerable, particularly in a crisis, it is really really hard to articulate what the problem is, especially as it’s most likely quite a complex situation.


It’s equally hard to comprehend what is being said to us, and having someone there who can ask questions, and maybe fill in any blanks we’ve left, can be invaluable. I know that I certainly came away from appointments with one version of events in my head, while my husband had another entirely. The reality was usually somewhere in the middle.


As for medication? Yes, psychiatrists tend to prescribe.


They’re doctors, and that’s what doctors do when the situation requires it. If I went to my GP with a strep throat, I’d expect to come away with a prescription for antibiotics. The only difference.. well ok, one of many, with psychiatric medication is that it’s long term and it can take a while to settle on something that works.


Medication is by no means a cure though. It simply gets us to a point where we can start to address the underlying issues that are the root cause of our distress. Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes, but it stabilises diabetics so that they can make the necessary lifestyle changes to minimise the impact of their condition. This is the same.


It has taken a long time, and certainly the nature of the public mental health service hasn’t helped, but I finally trust my consultant, and I do believe she has my best interests at heart.


For a long time, I fought and railed against medication, but now I understand that she knows a hell of a lot more about this than I do, and I trust her judgement. As long as I feel I’m being heard, I’m willing to listen.


Whether you meet a psychiatrist publicly or privately, being able to trust that person is absolutely crucial.


Try to leave preconceived ideas about what they’re going to say or do at the door. Take someone with you. Make notes ahead of time if you’re afraid you’ll forget something, and don’t be afraid to take notes either. Ask questions, as many as you need.


This is their job, but it’s completely alien to most of us. Having a good understanding of why they’re treating us with a particular medication or therapy will make a huge difference in accepting and hopefully improving the situation.


Last but not least – psychiatry, like therapy, is not a quick fix. It’s a stepping stone - one the vast majority will hopefully never need to use - but if you do, there’s no shame in it.


They are simply doctors trained to work with a specific area of the body, in this case, our mind. It will be ok.




Fiona Kennedy writes regularly about mental health issues on her blog


If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact Samaritans free any time from any phone on 116 123 or visit to find details of your nearest branch. You can also find online information at


(Published by Newstalk on the 30th June 2016)

Boy's foster parents say State should pay for orthodontic treatment 'because he was been bullied over his protruding teeth', High Court hears


The foster parents of a 14-year-old boy say the State should pay for orthodontic treatment which the foster mother says he needs because he was been bullied over his protruding teeth, the High Court heard.



Two orthodontists said he needed the treatment with one saying if it was left until he is older, the treatment would be more complex, the court heard.



The foster parents went ahead and paid for treatment out of their own pockets and the mother claims they should be reimbursed by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) which oversees and pays for the placement of children in foster care.


The court heard there is a €1,400 per month tax-free payment to foster parents for children under 11 and, it had been argued, the treatment could be funded from this.   The treatment cost €4,750.



The foster parents have looked after the boy for the last ten years along with the boy's older brother and another younger child.


The foster mother brought him to a HSE dentist after she became concerned about him being bullied at school over his teeth which he was self-conscious about, her counsel Ciaran Craven said.



She was told to bring him back when he was older but she went to a private orthodontist who recommended treatment as soon as possible, counsel said.


The boy's CFA social workers suggested she bring him to another private orthodontist who also recommended early treatment saying it would be more complex when he got older and would require some jaw surgery.



She went ahead with the treatment but  when she became aware funding for the treatment would not be forthcoming, she applied to the District Court to make a decision.  This was done under a provision of the 1991 Child Care Act which allows for the District Court to direct or make orders on any question affecting the welfare of a child.


It was accepted in the District Court the treatment was in the child's interests, Mr Craven said.  However, it was also accepted he did not meet the criteria under which he could avail of public orthodontic treatment, he said.



The District Court declined to make an order on the basis of separation of powers between the judiciary and State bodies and therefore did not have the jurisdiction to do so.


In her High Court challenge to that decision, the foster mother says the District Court erred in its decision.



Eoin Carolan BL, for the CFA, said his client appreciated the valuable work the foster parents did and it was a matter of regret the issue was before the court.


The CFA, he said, was entitled to form policies and deal with all children equally.  For the District Court to exercise the power it has under the welfare provision of the Child Care Act (Section 47), it must be satisfied some threshold has been met, counsel said.



The District Judge found the threshold criteria had not been met, he said.


The case continues before Ms Justice Marie Baker.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 28th June 2016)

Unicef: Migrant children forced into prostitution


Migrant children in northern France are forced into crime and prostitution on a daily basis to secure a place to stay in migrant camps or the promise of passage to Britain, the UN children’s agency said.

Unicef said sexual exploitation, violence and forced labour were a constant threat for children travelling alone and urged the authorities to do more to protect them.

“We know this has been a long-running problem for over a decade but it’s got much more extreme and severe in the last year with the increase in the global refugee crisis,” said Melanie Teff, senior humanitarian advocacy and policy adviser at Unicef UK.

“We heard sad stories of girls charging €5 to be sexually exploited in order to get into the camp, or to start paying towards their passage to the UK,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Of the roughly 206,200 people who arrived in Europe by sea this year to June 4, one in three was a child, Unicef said on Tuesday, citing figures from the UN refugee agency.

Many eventually end up in camps such as the shanty town nicknamed the “Jungle” outside France’s northern port of Calais.

Unicef said there were an estimated 500 unaccompanied children living in seven camps on the northern coast of France, including Calais and Dunkirk.

Some 2,000 children have passed through the camps since June 2015, it said.

Several children told the aid agency they were held by different criminal groups who demanded ransom from their families, while others were forced to work under almost slave-like conditions to pay for their journey.

Children from Afghanistan told Unicef that being raped was their biggest fear.

Faced with demands from traffickers to pay €5,000-€7,000 each to cross to Britain, children were looking for alternative ways to make the journey with some hiding in refrigerated lorries, Unicef said. “There isn’t schooling being provided, and most nights the children are walking for hours and trying to jump into lorries,” Teff said. “They’re living in a very, very tense situation and a lot of them talk about how they’re going crazy from the boredom.”

Teff said children living in migrant camps often had to pay to access showers or were forced to open lorries so others could jump in.

On average children stayed in the camps for five months before moving on, although some remained there for nine months and one child was stuck there for over a year, Unicef said.

The agency interviewed 60 children between 11 and 17 from Afghanistan, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Vietnam living in camps along the English Channel, between January and April 2016.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 17th June 2016)

Child welfare logging system confirmed


The Child and Family Agency has confirmed that the long-awaited Pulse-style system for logging child welfare and protection concerns will be in operation nationwide by the end of 2018.


By the time the NCCIS (National Child Care Information System) is fully rolled out, it will by the most of a decade since the plan was first mooted.


The new system will allow Tusla to monitor the progress of notifications and referrals across the system and across the country.


With the current paper-based system, for example, Tusla can only search for referrals by the identity of the person who made the referral or by the nature of the concern. It cannot say how many child welfare concerns have been raised in a given period regarding children living in homeless accommodation such as hotels, whereas such information would be easily accessible under NCCIS.


A Tusla spokesperson said the NCCIS includes a case management system to record operational data and clinical information for social workers, is currently operational in the Mid West, and its effectiveness is constantly monitored through a Project Advisory Group who review the system and handle escalated user issues.


Donal O’Malley, chair of the Irish Association of Social Workers, said the news the system would be fully operational was welcome, but added it needed to be backed by the necessary personnel. “We welcome the fact that it’s coming in, but it is disappointing, to say least, that it has taken this long and that it is going to take another 18 months,” he said.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 15th June 2016)

Anti-bullying programme focused on changing bystander behaviour should be in Irish schools


A national anti-bullying programme focusing on changing bystander behaviour should be rolled out immediately in Irish schools, a leading expert urges.


Director of the Anti-Bullying Research Centre at Dublin City University, James O’Higgins Norman, said they developed an anti-bullying programme based on a highly successful Finnish model.


Called Kiva (meaning nice), it includes role-playing exercises to increase the empathy of bystanders, and computer simulations to encourage students to think about how they would intervene to reduce bullying.


A study of more than 7,000 students in Finnish schools published earlier this year found that the programme greatly benefitted the mental health of students experiencing the most bullying.


It was found that the most tormented children — those facing bullying several times a week — could be helped by teaching bystanders to be more supportive.


Christina Salmivalli, a professor of psychology at the University of Turku who developed Kiva, currently in more than 2,300 Finnish schools, outlined its benefits at the annual Anti-Bullying Centre Conference at DCU yesterday.


Kiva is now Finland’s national anti-bullying programme, and has been tested and used in several other European countries and New Zealand. It is currently being evaluated in the US.


Mr O’Higgins Norman said the Anti-Bullying Centre has piloted a whole school approach that could be rolled out nationally if funding and resources to train teachers were made available.


“Kiva has been very successful because bystanders become advocates for a safer environment —— they know when to intervene when they see bullying behaviour.


“In Ireland schools have been allowed to develop their own programmes according to their own needs, but we have found that means that some schools don’t develop programmes and they are not as pro-active as they should be.


“If there was a national programme, it would mean that every school would have to reach certain standards and maintain a focus on bullying within the school environment.”


Ireland has had a National Anti-Bullying Action Plan since 2013, but has not implemented a national programme across all schools.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 10th June 2016)

Mums, don't beat yourself up if you do not instantly bond with your baby


Having a baby is a wonderful thing, but while some mothers look into their newborn's eyes and form an immediate connection, many do not. A new survey shows that as many as a third of new mothers have difficulty bonding with their babies.



The survey, carried out by the UK charity the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), spoke to 1,515 new parents, and as well as problems bonding they also found that more than one in 10 new mothers said they were too embarrassed to speak to health professionals about it.



Elizabeth Duff, the NCT's senior policy adviser, said: "The bond a baby has with its parents acts as a template that shapes the child's emotions and relationships later in life, so it's a crucial process. Parents who don't feel an instant connection with their new baby often experience strong feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy. We hope our research reassures new parents that they are not alone if they don't instantly bond with their baby and that this can often take time."


Bonding with your baby the moment they are born is supposed to happen automatically. But that is not always the case and it is important that women who don't experience love at first sight with their babies, do not feel isolated and alone.



We are bombarded by magazine spreads of celebrity mothers in their hospital beds looking resplendent in frilly nighties gazing adoringly at their babies. But, let's face it, anyone who has actually given birth knows that the reality is very different. No two births are the same, some are relatively straightforward, some are painful and others are just plain awful. The problem is, that no one who is lucky enough to have given birth to a healthy baby wants to be seen to be complaining. In this social media obsessed world of perfect images, you don't want to be seen as the one mother who isn't coping. So women pretend. They fake it. But the problem with faking it is that it only gets worse. If you don't bond with your baby, the guilt will begin to set in, followed by self-doubt and then feelings of failure and shame. Why don't you love your baby as much as Angelina Jolie? What's wrong with you? These negative thoughts and doubts can lead to depression.


It is therefore vital that new mothers who are struggling to connect with their newborn know that they are not alone and can talk to someone. They can talk to other mums, either face to face or on online forums, which might be easier if they feel shame. They should also talk to their GP about it.



The important thing is not to panic. Bonding is a process, not something that takes place within minutes and not something that has to happen within a certain time period after birth. For many mothers, bonding develops over time as they care for their babies.


You may not even notice that it's happening until you see your baby's first smile or they wrap their little fingers around your thumb or stare into your eyes and you're suddenly filled with love and affection.



Experts recommend having your baby stay in your room at the hospital from birth to help you bond straight away. They believe that while taking care of a baby can be overwhelming at first, you can benefit from the emotional support provided by the staff and start becoming more confident in your abilities as a parent.


Dr Bart Kuczera, consultant at Beacon CARE Fertility in Dublin, suggests that ways to optimise maternal-newborn interactions should include: skin-to-skin contact right after delivery, immediate breast feeding, "rooming in" and partner's assistance at delivery.



"All these actions are aimed at keeping the new mother with her baby together without compromising their safety."


More than 95pc of Irish mums are "roomed in" with their babies - a practice which is applied in most Irish maternity hospitals - to help them bond with their babies. But many women feel there is inadequate support from carers to help them bond with their babies and admit that they felt panicked and afraid.



AIMS Ireland (Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services Ireland) conducted an online poll to find out what matters to Irish women in terms of maternity care. Fifteen per cent of women listed lack of postnatal support as their main concern in the Irish maternity services.


In their replies, women with traumatic deliveries and C sections, who were physically restricted by complications following the birth, described how they were left alone to look after their own and their infant's needs. These women spoke of their distress at being physically incapable of taking care of their infant and how this lack of post-natal support affected them mentally, increasing anxiety, and promoting feelings of loneliness and failure that often had a lasting impact on them.



Bonding is a complex, personal experience that takes time. There's no magic formula and it can't be forced. Mothers mustn't beat themselves up if they don't connect with their babies straight away.


A baby whose basic needs are being met won't suffer if the attachment isn't strong at first. As you become more comfortable with your baby and your new routine, you will start to feel more confident and relaxed and will then be able to bond more. Don't forget, you're a mother for life, so there is no need to rush it.



As for the guilt, we all beat ourselves up far too much. All you can do is your best.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 8th June 2016)

Children with disabilities: Over 70 claims of abuse received by health watchdog


Health and social care watchdog Hiqa also received notifications about serious injuries and misconduct by staff.


Last year there were more than 70 notifications of alleged abuse against disabled children in care, Ireland’s health watchdog has said.


Hiqa, the independent body responsible for monitoring the quality of health and social services in Ireland, received 175 notifications from centres with responsibility for disabled children.


Out of these, 72 were allegations of suspected or confirmed abuse – making it the largest category for notifications against centres responsible for disabled children.


There were also complaints about serious injuries to residents (38), allegations of misconduct by the registered provider or by staff (11), and one unexpected death of a resident after being transferred to hospital.


How are notifications made to Hiqa?


The information that Hiqa has released today are notifications – not complaints.


The difference is that the centres themselves are legally required to report certain types of incidents within three working days of the alleged incident.


Besides the ones listed above, other incidents that centres have to report include:

The outbreak of certain diseases

The unexplained absence of a resident

Any incident where the centre become aware that a member of staff is subject to a review by a professional body


Across Ireland there are 62 centres with responsibility for children with disabilities, and around half of these provide full-time residential care for children with disabilities.


Hiqa does not give an exact number for children being cared for in these centres, as only 32 of these centres have completed registration – and a complete set of figures for the unregistered centres isn’t available.


However, among the centres that are fully registered, many look after only a handful of residents.


Breaking down the 32 centres registered with Hiqa it works out that 20 them had five or fewer residents, 11 had between 6 and 10 residents and the rest of the centres had just one resident.


In total the Hiqa carried out 78 inspections on centres for children with a disability last year.


What else was found in today’s report?


It has also been found in today’s report that 7% of children in foster care last year had no social worker to support them – something that Hiqa says leaves them exposed to unnecessary risks.


It also found that there was a disparity in meeting standards depending on the geographical location of the centres.


In total Hiqa has 27 standards for child protection and welfare services that it inspects against.


The watchdog judges these standards in the following categories: ‘standards met’, ‘standards requiring improvement’, or ‘standards against which significant risk was identified’.


Looking at areas was risk identified, geographically it broke down like this:

Dublin North, 2

Dublin South East/ Wicklow, 1

Louth/ Meath, 8


(Published by the on the 2nd June 2016)

Number of teen births continues to fall


There were 42 teenagers under the age of 16 who had babies last year, it has emerged.


The birth figures from the Central Statistics Office show that 1,187 teenagers had babies last year, but the number of such births has declined over the past 15 years.


The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme pointed out that births to teenagers had fallen by 62% since 2001 when there were 3,087.


The health authority said the 2015 figures showed a further decrease of 66 births to teenagers, compared to 2014 when there were 1,253.


The HSE said the relationship and sexuality eduction programme in schools and youth centres was contributing to the decline.


It also pointed out that there had been a decline of 72% in the number of teenagers giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics in Britain since 2001.


Just over half (53%) of births outside marriage or civil partnership last year were to mothers under 30. The average age of first-time mothers last year was 30.7 years, up 0.2 years from 2014.


The CSO figures show 65,909 births were registered last year, a decrease of 1,553 on 2014. However, the 2015 figure is 8% higher than in 2005 where there were 61,042 births.


However, the total fertility rate for Ireland has fallen in the past two years from 1.95 to 1.94. A value of 2.1 is considered to be the level at which the population would replace itself, in the long run, ignoring migration.


More than three-quarters of the births were to Irish mothers, with just over 6% to mothers from non-EU countries. Almost 40% of the births (24,867) were to first-time mothers while 35% (23,0360) were to second-time mothers. There were 224 children born to mothers who were aged 45 and over.


Over a third (36%) of births last year were outside marriage, with almost 60% to cohabiting parents.


There were 205 infant deaths registered last year —an infant mortality rate of 3.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, a decrease of 0.6 from 2014.


Ten years earlier in 2005 there were 244 infant deaths registered which equated to an infant mortality rate of 4 per 1,000 live births.


There were 151 neonatal deaths (babies aged under four weeks) registered last year — a death rate of 2.3 per 1,000 live births and a decrease of 0.4 from 2014.


There were 22,116 marriages registered last year of which 91 were same-sex marriages. However, the marriage rate in 2015 was 4.8 per 1,000 of the population, the same rate as in 2014.


The number of deaths registered at 29,952 for 2015 is almost 10% higher than in 2005 when there were 27,441.


Deaths last year were caused by diseases of the circulatory system (31%), cancer (30%), and respiratory disease (13%). About 5% of all deaths (1,439) were due to accidents, suicide and other external causes.


There were 451 suicides registered last year compared with 459 in 2014. Men accounted for 83% of all recorded suicide deaths in 2015.


The natural increase (births minus deaths) last year was 35,957 — almost 6.3% lower than the natural increase of 38,367 in 2014.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 1st June 2016)

Learning disability students win right to ‘reader’


More than 80 students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities are to get ‘reader’ help or other special accommodation for the Leaving Certificate exams following a review of the refusals of 400 applications for assistance.


The State Examinations Commission is re-examining 400 applications seeking “reasonable accommodation” for the exams arising from a High Court decision last month quashing the refusal of a reader to a student. Mr Justice Seamus Noonan overturned the refusal on grounds including failure of the Commission’s Independent Appeals Committee to give “any understandable rationale” for refusal.


After he gave that judgement for the student, represented by Feichin McDonagh SC, the boy was given a reader — an adult exam supervisor to read exam questions in a way a dyslexic student can understand.


Under the commission’s ‘reasonable accommodation’ policy, students who believe certain permanent or long-term conditions may affect their examinations performance can apply for special arrangements. Of 116,000 students who sit State exams annually, about 18,000 seek such accommodation.


To qualify for a reader, a student must satisfy certain criteria, including obtaining certain test scores in word reading on sample papers.


At Leaving Certificate level, decisions on applications for readers or other ‘reasonable accommodation’ in certificate examinations under the Race scheme are taken by the commission after an application is made on behalf of a candidate by their school. If an application is refused, there is a right of appeal to the Commission’s Independent Appeals Committee and complaints may also be made to the Ombudsman for Children or, where appropriate, the ombudsman. Four other cases aimed at securing readers or other special accommodation have been initiated. One has settled with the student getting the reader. Three others are due for hearing at the High Court next week.


As part of its re-examination of 404 rejected applications, the SEC has decided 81 students who had been refused a reader or other ‘reasonable accommodation’ should be granted the accommodation as, when they appealed against being refused readers, they had submitted new information indicating they met the qualifying criteria for the Race scheme.


The commission says 260 other cases fall into categories in that either no new information was submitted at the appeals stage, or no information was submitted indicating the applicant met the criteria. Those 260 cases are being reviewed. That is due to conclude on Friday.


(Published by the Irish Examiner on the 27th May 2016)

'I told my doctor I was against antidepressants but that prescription saved my life'


The number of Irish people taking antidepressants is at an all-time high. This is no bad thing, says Tanya Sweeney


Last week, I had a proud moment. After taking antidepressants for a year, I found myself sitting in my therapist's office. She leaned back, exhaled and said: "you know something? I actually think you don't need me at all anymore."


Well, I couldn't have been prouder of myself if I'd completed a PhD. I'd put the spadework in. After a year of antidepressants and therapy, I'd finally gone into remission with the condition they call 'cancer of the soul'.



A year previously, it was a much different story. Unable to get out of bed, unable to write… things were starting to spiral out of control again. I was high-functioning, still meeting friends and hitting deadlines, but I felt unnaturally tired. And no amount of sleep could shift the feeling.


My doctor suggested a return to medication. I baulked. It meant, for me, weight gain and a low libido, but it also meant that the thoughts and feelings that were razoring my mind to ribbons would, if not recede completely, at least soften around the edges.



People hear the word 'antidepressants' and think a number of things, just as I'd once done. They hear 'zombie'. 'Mental case'. Someone failing at keeping themselves on an even keel.


The truth is, a person on antidepressants is someone with enough clarity (or at least has someone around them with enough clarity) to ask for a helping hand with a condition, just as they might with diabetes or asthma. Like me, they just want to get better, and are often afraid of having a condition so powerful, consuming and possessive that it can prompt you to commit a murder. On yourself.



A significant number of people I know have been prescribed anti-depressant medication - 300,000 Irish people are, in fact. New data suggests that €50million was spent on antidepressants and mood stabilisers in the State in 2002, up €42 million since 1993. I'd wager this figure will be even higher for this decade.


Some professionals have been damning in their appraisal, saying that counselling services are inadequate (they are, not least for non-private patients). RTE's 'Prime Time' this week looked at whether Irish doctors were prescribing antidepressants too readily and whether they did so at the behest of drug companies, which regularly pay for them to attend conferences abroad.



This may sound like we're a nation of casual pill-poppers. Well, if doctors really are over-prescribing, I for one am glad. Anti-depressants have probably saved my life.


Life's hard in Ireland. Things are expensive here. We've a Government who moves significant funding away from mental health expenditure without looking back. Don't think this doesn't affect people's state of mind. Hate the game, not the player.



The very first time I was prescribed medication, my doctor asked me a seemingly innocuous list of questions. Turned out that, unbeknownst even to me, I was at a sky-high risk of self-harm. This scared the life out of me: to feel that I didn't have control over my mind, supposedly, my most private and safe place.


I told my doctor I was 'against' medication. "It would be irresponsible of me and at worst, negligent of me to allow you out of here without a prescription," my doctor said. A half-hour later, I was in Boots, shamed, embarrassed, awaiting judgement from behind the counter.



Four weeks later, I was getting worse: I rang my doctor and we switched brands. Just like the other pill, it can sometimes be a case of trial and error.


A few weeks later, I was finally on my way to recovery. Add counselling, walking and other lifestyle tweaks to the mix and things evened out. It was like a full-time job, schlepping to therapy and walking about, but it was better than the alternative: sitting in bed and having my mind spiral out of control like Charlie Sheen: The #winning Years.



For now, things are great; work is steady, I'm in a happy relationship after years of singledom, I'm out of bed early without too much griping. I'm planning holidays, picnics and parties. It may not last forever, but it'll do for now. A year ago, I genuinely thought these moments would never again be for me.


Antidepressants aren't for everyone. My doctor suggests counselling, meditation or plain exercise to others, with nary a pill in sight, because the condition varies in all of us. That's why keeping in touch with a good, understanding GP is paramount.



Depression can manifest in countless guises, and there are no hard and fast rules. Medication isn't the quick fix. The only solution, really, is to acknowledge the condition for what it is. Only then can you start to look for your right way forward.


(Published by the Irish Independent on the 25/05/2016)

Student with dyslexia appeals exam ‘reader’ refusal


A student with dyslexia has brought fresh High Court proceedings after his application aimed at securing a reader allowing him better understand papers in next month’s Leaving Certificate was once again refused.


The student is one of several individuals who have brought actions against an Independent Appeals Committee of the State Examinations Commission, which is under the aegis of the Department of Education, after his application for a reader was turned down.


A reader is an adult exam supervisor who reads exam questions in a way a student with dyslexia can understand, while he sits his exams.


Lawyers for the student, who is 18 and hopes to study art at third level, have brought fresh proceedings because his application has again been refused without him being given the opportunity to submit additional evidence supporting his application for a reader.


Two weeks ago the teenager, who also has a condition known as dyscalculia — a difficulty with numbers — was granted permission by the High Court to seek orders quashing the refusal as well as a declaration from the court he is entitled to be furnished with the reasons for the refusal.


He claims in that action, which is pending before the High Court, that no reasons were given for the original refusal. He also claims he has been denied fair procedures.


Yesterday lawyers for the teen returned to the High Court to challenge the commission’s decision to again refuse the teen’s application for a reader.


Michael Lynn SC, appearing with Brendan Hennessy, told Ms Justice Mary Faherty that on Tuesday of this week the committee told the student of its refusal.


Counsel said this decision was made before submissions supporting the student’s case for a reader had been made. The teenager’s solicitor, Eileen McCabe, was in the process of putting together reports from an education expert, the student’s school and teachers which were to be submitted as part of the teenager’s application for a reader.


However, with no prior notice the committee issued a fresh decision, again turning down the request. “We have not been able to put our case,” counsel said.


Counsel said while the commission may have been trying to be helpful his client has been left at “a significant disadvantage”.


Permission to bring the action was granted on an ex-parte basis by Ms Justice Faherty. The judge adjourned the matter to May 31.


The court had heard the student, who was diagnosed as having dyslexia when he was nine years of age, has applied for entry into third level under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE).


This is an alternative admissions scheme where reduced points requirements are offered to school leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their education. To qualify for a reader he needed to satisfy certain criteria.

(Published by the Irish Examiner 20/05/2016)

Your last chance to apply: Garda recruitment drive ends today


Demand for this year’s positions is expected to be high.

Today is the final day for applications to the Garda Síochána’s 2016 recruitment programme.

The force is adding an additional 600 members to its ranks this year, bringing to 1,150 the total number of new recruits since the Garda Training College was reopened in September 2014.

Garda trainees receive a weekly allowance of €184 for the first 32 weeks of service.

On appointment, a probationary garda is paid an annual salary of €23,171, rising by increments to a maximum of €45,793 per annum after 19 years.

Stages 1 to 3 of the selection process will be conducted by the Public Appointments Service.

Candidates who reach stage 3 will go forward for consideration by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.


O’Sullivan previously said she hoped to see applications a large number of female applicants.

“When I joined An Garda Síochána in 1981, I was one of a tiny minority of women,” she said in November.

The force is also actively seeking recruits from minority communities.

Applications are required to have either:

  • an Irish Leaving Certificate with a grade D3 minimum in five subjects at ordinary level;
  • a level 5 certificate on the National Framework of Qualifications;
  • a recognised qualification deemed comparable to the above.

Parents no longer let 'chastise' children by smacking


Parents are now effectively banned from smacking their children after the Government yesterday formally removed from law the defence of "reasonable chastisement".

From today, any person who administers corporal punishment to a child will no longer be able to rely on such a defence in the courts.

Children's Minister James Reilly yesterday formally signed a commencement order for the removal of the clause from common law.

Such a move has been called for by human rights groups for many months.

Legislation which permitted parents to use force against their children was repealed almost 15 years ago but the defence of reasonable chastisement remained.

No new offence has been created that explicitly prohibits the smacking of children as a form of punishment - however, the decision to remove the defence is a significant step.

Speaking yesterday, Dr Reilly said he hopes removing the defence of reasonable chastisement will result in a "cultural change" in society.

"The removal of the Common Law defence sends a strong message which will, I hope, lead to a cultural change across Irish society that corporal punishment is wrong," Dr Reilly said.

"We have not created any new offence but rather we are removing something that has its roots in a completely different era and societal context," he added.

The Fine Gael deputy leader said the move is also important in reinforcing proper parenting practices in Ireland.

"The measure represents a significant advancement as regards the protection and rights of children. It reinforces the developing impetus in parenting practice in Ireland to use positive discipline strategies in the upbringing of children, which reject the use of corporal punishment," he added.

Earlier this year, Dr Reilly and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald reviewed the issue of reasonable chastisement following a Council of Europe ruling.

The EU body found that young people's rights were being violated as a result of a lack of a clear ban on smacking.

In a recent interview with this newspaper, Dr Reilly said that he received correspondence from the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children, Marta Santos Pais, congratulating the Government over the decision to remove the reasonable chastisement clause.


"Political support at the highest level is critical to ensuring that sustained progress can be made in combating violence against children. The steps that Ireland has taken Ms Pais added that "in taking this step, Ireland is making an important contribution to the global movement towards a world where all children are free from violence."

In a statement yesterday, Dr Reilly stressed the value of 'positive parenting'.

The Dublin Fingal TD said it is important that the issue of self-discipline among children is supported by a "learning strategy" rather than punishment.

"Parental and family relationships are the most important factor in child development outcomes - therefore, supporting parents and families is the best way to improve outcomes for children," Dr Reilly added.

His remarks came after the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, held a parenting conference in Dublin Castle to encourage best practice.

More details are available on the website www.parenting24seven.ieaugur well for a change in attitudes and behaviour that will help build a culture in which no form of violence against children is acceptable," the letter stated.

It's hard working with missing teenagers when they don't want to be found


Social workers can’t know for certain if a missing young person is safe or a victim of child sexual exploitation

Working with teenagers in the care system, you become increasingly good at recognising the signs of child sexual exploitation – one of which is going missing regularly.

Young people go missing for many reasons, but there are also those who are staying with friends and don’t want social services to know where they are. Why? Because they are teenagers; they’re confident about their safety and the last thing they want is the police turning up on their doorsteps to find them. Nor do they want the authorities to have a string of addresses to search every time they disappear – as this leads to their friends and family receiving regular visits from the police.

For the social worker, this causes difficulties: how do you know which young people are genuinely at risk? It’s hard to know what interventions can be put in place when young people tell you: “I am not missing, I am with my friend. I am picking up the phone, and I am safe. I’m just not going to tell you where I am.”

I’ve worked with young people who have said they are safe, but who were not. One young woman was living in semi-independent accommodation and would often go missing. When I called she said she was fine and had just been staying with friends. Regardless of how many times I asked or clues I sought, she wouldn’t give any information as to her whereabouts, but would always pick up the phone.


Months later, she asked if she could be moved from her accommodation. Over time, through building up our relationship, she revealed she had been running drugs for a gang and was frequently abandoned to sleep in gardens or hotel bedrooms. She was far from safe and groomed to give the appropriate answer on the phone.


I’ve worked with other young people who, I believe, were probably just having fun with friends and wanted to be left to their own devices. One young person often stayed with her boyfriend and had extended family members with a history of social services involvement who did not want their addresses given out.


Different local authorities have different policies. Many state that if a young person is missing for more than 24 hours the police should be called. Some young people might fit this criteria every other day, and visiting their accommodation, checking rooms, going to every known address, and carrying out interviews with them uses a huge amount of time for the police and social services. Some argue this situation should not be classified as “missing” but as “absence unauthorised”, leading to a reduced police response until that particular young person does something out of character – staying away longer than normal or not answering the phone.


This would reduce the number of people classified as missing – but this should never be a motivation when considering individual cases.

Recently, I was at a strategy meeting for one of the young people I work with. Police suggested that the young person be moved to a place in the middle of nowhere so they couldn’t go missing. I argued against it. In some cases, the young person does need to be moved to be kept safe. But in others, such as this case, we have to consider if it would benefit them. Is seeing the young person every other day, as we do now, not better than them going on the run permanently because we have moved them far from their family and friends?


As with all elements of social work, building relationships with young people is vital. I’ve worked with young people where, in their own time, they have opened up to discuss their fears and even requested to be moved away and to start somewhere afresh, somewhere safe.


Social work deals with humans, and humans are unpredictable. Equally, dealing with risk carries an inherent degree of uncertainty. We’re never going to be able to know for sure whether this missing person is safe or not, whether we are using vast quantities of professional time unnecessarily, or whether this time and the ensuing interventions will change a young person’s life. In the meantime, we’ll continue to be creative and find new ways of working with young people to reduce the amount of time they are missing from placement, and to do everything we can to keep them safe.


* Danielle Adler is a pseudonym

Staff member at children's detention centre badly beaten by teen


A staff member at Oberstown Boys Centre for young offenders has been viciously attacked in one of the “worst assaults ever encountered” at the facility.

The attacker, a resident at the unit, was allegedly under the influence of an unknown substance at the time.

Well-placed sources have said the youth was “clearly under the influence of a substance” when returning from a court appearance.

He was placed under close observation over night and staff suspected that he had drugs concealed on his person.

The following day at 8:30am, while under observation, he collapsed after a suspected overdose.

An ambulance was called as staff administered first aid.

While in the recovery position the teen regained consciousness and attacked the staff members at the scene.

Sources said the adolescent unleashed a “barrage of punches,” injuring one member before he was restrained.

“When the ambulance arrived, he was so out of control that it was decided it was not safe enough to place him in it,” said a source.

“The ambulance was then used to take the injured staff member to Beaumont. The staff member was later discharged from hospital with extensive bruising,” they added.

The shocking incident unfolded shortly after 6pm on December 1.

Experienced staff who were at the scene said it was one of the most violent assaults they have ever encountered.

An official from Oberstown Children Detention Campus said they could not comment on the incident.

“Oberstown Children Detention is not in a position to comment on individual cases. The young people in its care are under 18 years of age and individual information cannot be disclosed,” a spokeswoman said.

Another worker has said incidents of violence against staff and are contributing to “large staff turnover rates.”

Earlier this year staff were hospitalised after a young resident went on a rampage with a broken cup.

Study examines effects of child care; home care


A study indicates that starting in childcare at an early age has no effect on children's cognitive development, compared to at home care.


The latest Growing Up in Ireland report also indicates high engagement with the Free Pre-school Year programme.


The Government-funded study of children being carried out jointly by the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin shows that by the age of five, children who attended childcare and children who were cared for full-time at home by their parents showed no difference in their language and reasoning skills.


It also suggests starting in childcare, including creches, from as young as nine months old had no effect on children's cognition by the time they turned five.


The research, which is based on a representative sample of 9,000 children, also highlights that by the age of five almost all of the children in the study had participated in pre-school education through the Free Pre-school Year.


22% of parents said they would not have been able to afford to send their child to pre-school without this programme.


This figure was almost 40% for lower-income parents and parents with low education.


The researchers said this suggested the Free Pre-school Year had broadened access to quality childcare for disadvantaged social groups.


Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Helen Russell of the ESRI, said according to the study, family background has more of an effect on a child's cognitive outcomes than childcare.


Dr Russell said the research did find that children in childcare with a leader who has a graduate qualification have more positive outcomes.

Hospital staff under pressure to release details of child sex abuse victims


Staff at a unit treating child sex abuse victims are coming under increasing pressure from the courts and the DPP to release intimate details over and above that related to abuse concerns.

The level of detail demanded by lawyers is such that staff at St Clare’s Child Sexual Abuse Unit in Temple Street Hospital believe it could deter families with abuse concerns from coming forward.


The unit’s acting principal social worker, Maura O’Sullivan, said that children confide in them on the basis of confidentiality but that increasing requests from both the civil and criminal courts were impacting on their ability to guarantee containment of intimate information.


“We would traditionally have always released a report to the social worker which would give all the details of the assessment, all the information and our conclusions,” she said. “But then courts started coming back and saying: ‘Actually, we want your verbatim notes. We want your whole file. We want the DVD recordings [of interviews with children].’

“And we don’t make DVD recordings for evidentiary purposes. The reasons we make DVD recordings is to ensure quality in our own practice and to have a an accurate record of what was being said.”


Eimear Lacey, senior social worker at St Clare’s, an assessment and therapy service, said the information they gathered was far broader than abuse allegations, and having to share this information could potentially make it available to the child’s abuser.


“We’re not just assessing credibility, we’re assessing the needs of the child therapeutically and the needs of the family therapeutically, so our information is much broader than the specific allegations,” said Ms Lacey.


Ms O’Sullivan said there was increasing pressure from the DPP’s office for access to therapy notes, which flew in the face of efforts to create a protected and confidential therapeutic relationship with child sex abuse victims.


She said that, to facilitate children confiding in them, they needed reassurance that the content of their conversations were private and not used for other purposes.


Ms Lacey said that they were “finding that the boundaries around us, around what’s private to the child, are being pushed and pushed and pushed in terms of information being given either to the courts or to the alleged perpetrator, directly through Tusla’s procedures”.


Ms Lacey and Ms O’Sullivan are trying to raise awareness of the dilemma staff in the unit face, and have begun meeting with politicians to highlight the issue.


“We need to create change because it’s having an ongoing impact on children and families’ decisions around whether they are going to report things, because if all of your personal information is going to be made available to a whole raft of people, then they would have to think very carefully about that — whether it is going to actually help their child or create more trauma,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

Dublin soup run tackles food poverty in the suburbs


Volunteers in Ballyfermot say demand for service ‘shows how desperate people are’

The arrival of volunteers at the door with food parcels makes “getting through the week a bit easier”, says Selina Hall, a mother-of-four living in the Crawford area of Ballyfermot, west Dublin.

“It’s great, yes. It just helps, you know, especially after the weekends when the presses are nearly bare,” she says smiling, taking the box of groceries from volunteer Yvonne Byrne.

It’s Monday night, and Byrne has packed up boxes of such items as tinned soup, pasta, tea bags, bread, tinned fish, cakes, biscuits, onions and broccoli for five families in the area.

“We do about five or six families a night, five nights a week – a different set of families each night. On this road alone we bring food to six families,” she says.


Byrne is one of several women in Ballyfermot who have been operating a soup run for the homeless for more than a year.

It was started by local woman Ann-Marie Gleeson in October 2014, in response to the visible increase in homelessness in the area.

“A lot of people, when they lose their homes out here, they don’t want to go into town, away from where they’re from.

“The soup runs that operate in town don’t come out here.”

Gleeson explains however that in recent months families with children began approaching them each evening looking for food.

“We decided to bring food to them in their houses, for their privacy really. Ballyfermot has always had problems with food poverty, but to see families that desperate that they’d come looking for food from a soup run for the homeless, well it shows how desperate people are.

“And people say there’s a recovery in the country. What recovery?”

The volunteers get food donations from local shops, including Tesco and Supervalu via the Foodcloud app, which allows food retailers to make surplus food - or food near its sell-by date - available to charities for distribution to the needy.

The women make vats of soup and trays of sandwiches too, while on Monday the local Dominos take-away donates pizzas.

“The kids in the houses love when we arrive with pizza on Mondays. Sometimes they come to the door almost grabbing it.

“The children can be very hungry on Mondays, after the weekends when the food is running low.”

They first feed homeless people, from 8-9pm five nights a week, and then make house calls.

They also give out Red Cross food vouchers, each of which entitles the bearer to a hot meal at the Ballyfermot Civic Centre.

They give out “about 100 a week”, says Gleeson.

‘Very disadvantaged’

The areas visited on Monday night are classified by Pobal, which co-ordinates social inclusion services for the Government, as “very disadvantaged”, with a male unemployment rate of 44.1 per cent.

Food poverty, according to the Institute for Public Health, is “the inability to afford or have reasonable access to food which provides a healthy diet”.

It is a form of chronic social exclusion, and according to a study published by trade unions Mandate and Unite in December 2013, it is experienced by more than 470,000 people – or one in 10 of the population.

Mental health talk on International Men's day


Sport stars, poets and broadcasters are among those who will be talking about the importance of men looking after their emotional and mental health, as part of International Men's Day today.

Pieta House, a suicide and crisis self-harm centre, is hosting an event in Dublin later, where men will talk about how they have come through difficult times in their lives.

Rugby player Jack McGrath and Dublin footballer Paul Flynn will be speaking at tonight's free-of-charge event.

In Ireland, 80% of people who die by suicide are men.

CEO of Pieta House Brian Higgins, has said as a society, we need to be more open to men talking about their mental health: “I suppose we have a question around do we actually look after our own emotional wellbeing, do we look after our mental wellbeing, do we look after the stability factors that we need around us.

“And for us, that is why we are looking at International Men’s Day from that perspective of saying let’s look at what it means or what people think it means to be a man and explore it and see is that really what being a fully stable man is all about.”

Rise in child parental abductions due to ease of mobility


Dr Shannon told a conference on parental child abduction, held in Dublin yesterday, that as well as being a more mobile society, some 15% of marriages are bi-national.


“So inevitably when marriages break down, the area of abduction comes into sharp focus,” said Dr Shannon, adding that a key issue now emerging is the “grave risk defence” being used to prevent children being returned.


A frequently invoked defence used is that returning the child would expose him or her to physical or psychological harm, or would put the child in an intolerable position.


“The threshold should be high for ‘grave risk’ because what you don’t want is this defence being pleaded as a matter of course,” said Dr Shannon.


Creating a low threshold for grave risk subverts the law in the member state where the child is taken.


Dr Shannon said: “I am in no doubt that when a child is taken from a EU member state without lawful authority, a child should be immediately returned to the state from which the child has been abducted.”

He said the Brussels 11a Regulation, which specifies procedures regarding international child abduction, is unrealistic in requiring the disposing of such cases within six weeks.


“If you are going to hear the voice of the child and the parent seeking the return of the child, the six-week period is unrealistic,” he said.


“With the passage of the children’s rights referendum, the court has an obligation to hear the views of the child and give them due weight.”


Dr Shannon added that the fact it might be difficult to hear a child does not absolve a court from the responsibility of doing so: “That is something we should not lose sight of.”


The conference, held at the European Parliament offices, was organised by Mairead McGuinness, MEP and vice-president of the parliament and its mediator for international parental child abduction.

Ms McGuinness said that the conference was held ahead of a European Commission review of the Brussels 11a Regulation in the spring.


She said the regulation dealing conflict of law issues between member states, including international child abduction, is not working in the best interest of the child.


“Making sure an abducted child is returned safely within the correct timeframe is a huge issue,” she said.

http://Child abductions are increasing because of ease of mobility, according to the State’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon.

New laws on rights of crime victims are criticised


Legislation is designed to recognise and safeguard victims, witnesses and families

Concerns have been raised around aspects of a comprehensive set of laws on the rights of victims of crime which come into force today.

The new measures include the right to access information on the progress of criminal cases; support during trials; a formal explanation from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) where it is decided not to prosecute offences; and a statutory provision of counselling and support services.

They are designed to recognise and safeguard victims, witnesses and families in a legal process long criticised for ignoring or underplaying their needs.

While now officially in force through the compulsory EU Victims Directive – approved in the European Parliament with an overwhelming majority in October 2012 – supportive Irish legislation is still at a draft stage with no deadline for enactment.


The directive has been broadly welcomed, but advocates of victims’ rights have said the relative Irish law needs to be strengthened.

Concerns have also been expressed as to how various measures will work in practice.

Some of these surround the DPP’s obligation to provide reasons for non-prosecution.

Since 2008 the DPP has adopted a policy of providing guidance to families and victims in cases regarding fatalities.

However from today it must do the same for all crimes when requested, right down to District Court level prosecutions, a move that will bring considerable transparency to prosecutorial approaches.

The DPP has already acted. Addressing the Public Accounts Committee last week, deputy director Barry Donoghue said a new communications and victim liaison unitwould process requests.

“It is difficult at this point in time to gauge the volume of requests for reasons for decisions not to prosecute, and requests for reviews of decisions, that might be received,” he said.

Some lawyers are concerned it will precipitate an increase in prosecutions even in cases where prosecutors are aware the chance of success is slim.

“You don’t always know what has prompted a decision not to prosecute. By and large the decisions are not particularly surprising,” said one legal source requesting anonymity.


“Psychologically the fact of having to give reasons will be in the mind of the [decision-maker] and it will be very hard to keep that in the abstract.

“It might result in the DPP prosecuting cases they may not have otherwise out of concern not to offend victims.”

However a spokeswoman for the DPP said the office “will continue to apply our general guidelines for prosecutors in deciding whether or not to prosecute in all cases”.

Public interest

“The criteria for decision-making has not been changed by the directive. When making a decision the office must be satisfied that the evidence is strong enough to prosecute the case and, if so, that it is in the public interest to bring the case to court.”

Maria McDonald, a barrister and founding member of the Victims Rights Alliance, said: “[The DPP] are only required to provide a line of reasons, they don’t have to go into detail. If there is insufficient evidence for the DPP to proceed, there is insufficient evidence.”

Woman admits assaulting Áras Attracta residents


A staff member at the Áras Attracta facility in Co Mayo has pleaded guilty to assaulting residents there.


Joan Gill entered her plea at this morning's sitting of Swinford District Court, sitting in Ballina.


Brendan McDonagh SC told Judge Mary Devins that Ms Gill, with an address at Dublin Road, Swinford, was pleading guilty to three of five charges against her on a full facts basis.


She will be sentenced next year.


She did not speak during the proceedings.


Meanwhile, legal representatives for five other staff members charged with assault have sought trial dates for their clients.


Judge Devins set aside a number of days in January to hear the cases.


They each face a single charge of assault, alleged to have taken place on dates between 6 and 17 of November last year.


Two of the accused, Kathleen King from Knockshanvally, Straide, Foxford, Co Mayo and Christina Delaney, from Lissatava, Hollymount in Co Mayo, are seeking extra disclosure of documentation that is not in the possession of gardaí.


State solicitor for Co Mayo Vincent Deane told the court that the DPP would endeavour to facilitate this.


Pat McLoughlin, of Lalibela, Mayfield, Clarmorris, is charged with assault on 14 November 2014 at Bungalow 3 at Áras Attracta.


Anna Ywunong Botsimbo, of Low Park Avenue, Charlestown, Co Mayo, is charged with assault on the same date at the same location, while Joan Walsh from Carrowilkeen, Curry, Co Sligo is charged with assault on 15 November last year.


The charges follow a lengthy garda investigation after the RTÉ Investigations Unit broadcast a report on care standards at the HSE run facility last December.

'If I had the option I would impose a life sentence... to protect society' - judge


Child kidnapper with 92 previous convictions gets 17 years

A judge praised the "natural instinct" of a young boy who "swung into action" to save his sister from abduction.

Michael Martin (36) was given a 17-year sentence, with the final four years suspended, for false imprisonment in Co Laois last March. He had 92 previous convictions and was on bail for robbery charges at the time.

Judge Keenan Johnson said "the detection and apprehension of the accused was a great piece of detective work" which was aided by the keen observations of three children.

Twin boys aged 10 and their 11-year-old sister had been playing at Cullohill in Co Laois when the accused approached in an SUV on March 4.

He grabbed the girl and pushed her into the passenger seat of the SUV. As he did so, the girl's brother attacked Martin.

He then clung onto the side of the SUV as Martin attempted to drive away. During the boy's attack on Martin, the young girl was able to escape.

"They were able to describe the accused, the vehicle he was driving, and also to give details of part of the registration plate. I also note with satisfaction that the Garda investigation into this matter was considerably helped by the co-operation and assistance offered to them by the local community," Judge Johnson said.

He described the incident as "extremely frightening" for the children and said the girl was fortunate that her brother was present. Judge Johnson said the boy's "natural instinct to protect his sister swung into action once he saw the danger she was in.

"He was extremely brave and showed great presence of mind, maturity beyond his years and leadership.

"All three children are a credit to their family. Their father also deserves great credit for the speed with which he reported the matter to the gardaí," Judge Johnson added.

Having read a detailed forensic psychological report on the accused, Judge Johnson concluded that Martin was at high risk of reoffending. The report, he said, "makes for disturbing reading". He added that "the accused's background is both chaotic and unhappy".

The judge said that after his arrest, Martin, with an address at Shandon Court, Yellow Road, Waterford city, hadn't made admissions - even after being identified by two of the children in identity parades.

It was only after the Garda forensic investigation found fibres from the girl's clothes in the SUV, that the accused admitted involvement in the attempted abduction.

The judge told Portlaoise Circuit Court yesterday: "I think it is well worth reflecting on the enormous amount of resources that went into the investigation at very short notice.

"In investigations of this type of crime, time is of the essence. I'm advised that the gardaí deployed huge resources and this, combined with the detailed information which the children were able to provide, led to the apprehension of the accused within a little over 24 hours.

"This was a remarkable achievement and deserves to be acknowledged."

Judge Johnson noted the family's victim impact statement, which outlined how the family "were permanently changed as a consequence of the offence".

The statement, written by the children's father, states that a significant portion of the child's innocence had been stolen.

The family now live in the USA and Judge Johnson noted "the shocking irony of this case is the fact that Ireland would be expected to provide a safe environment for children".

One can only imagine the family's sense of shock and betrayal, he said, before wishing the family well for the future.

Ireland should follow Portugal on drug laws, report suggests


Proposals for Government suggest possession should be similar to road traffic offence

Ireland should follow the example of Portugal and offer counselling and other assistance to people caught by gardaí with small quantities of drugs rather than prosecute them, a new report for Government by an Oireachtas committee is proposing.

People found with drugs including cannabis, heroin and cocaine would face a civil or administrative response rather than a criminal justice one.

The proposals come just days after Minister in charge of the National Drugs Strategy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said a more liberal and progressive attitude towards illegal drugs was needed in the Republic.

He told The Irish Times medically supervised injection rooms “will happen next year” and said the “stigma” and “shame” around being addicted to drugs needed to come to an end.

In Portugal, people caught with up to 10 days supply of drugs are sent before a dissuasion commission to discuss the reasons they are consuming the substances.

The possession of drugs would still remain illegal in the Republic under the new plan, but the response of the criminal justice system would be scaled down to one similar to that of a road traffic offence.

And rather than engaging in a process ending in a criminal record and court sanctions such as fines or imprisonment, those caught with drugs would be offered treatment and counselling and supported towards a more stable and productive lifestyle.

Future policies

The new proposal is contained in a report on future policies around drug abuse and harm reduction compiled by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality chaired by David Stanton.

The report, due to be published on Thursday morning, follows a public consultation process in which more than 80 stakeholders and citizens made submissions.

The committee also held public hearings and a delegation of four members, led by Mr Stanton, went to Portugal to study the radical approach being taken there.

In July the Oireachtas committee published a report on its visit to Portugal and concluded initial fears the new approach would lead to an increase in drug use and attract drug users from other jurisdictions have proved to be unfounded.

Its interim report did not make any recommendations for Ireland based on the Portuguese experience, but said the approach there had freed up the police and courts from time consuming and expensive cases involving those caught with drugs for personal use.

Users had also escaped the stigma of a criminal record, which often proves a major disadvantage later in life.

The number of crimes related to drug use in Portugal had decreased and the police had more time to focus on catching drug dealers and frustrating drug trafficking.

Under the proposals to be unveiled on Thursday, people caught with small quantities of drugs would be referred to dissuasion committees made up for addiction and mental health professionals as well as social workers.

The reasons for their drug use would be assessed and treatment options made available.

In Portugal, the authorities put positive discrimination in place for those who engage with the process, with tax breaks for employers who hire those undergoing treatment and counselling and the government contributing to paying the person’s salary to the value of the minimum wage.

And the management of the process under which those found with drugs is the responsibility of health and welfare state agencies in Portugal, having been taken out of the criminal justice system.

State too slow to help many at-risk kids, says report


Four out of every five children who are reported at risk of abuse are going weeks without being assessed by child protection officers, according to a new report.

The Children's Ombudsman, Dr Niall Muldoon, said he is "seriously concerned" that thousands of children are being left in vulnerable situations without "the proper, timely support from the State".

A quarter of all complaints the ombudsman received last year related to the Child and Family Support Agency (Tusla).

The annual report says that the ombudsman completed a number of investigations into the handling of abuse cases.



However, more than three quarters of initial assessments of children were carried out after the 21-day target window once a concern has been raised.

"It is of serious concern that the quarterly data issued by Tusla in 2014 indicates that there is a very low percentage of initial assessments being completed within the target time frame of 21 days," Dr Muldoon says in his report.

"According to the Quarter 2 National Performance Activity report, only 21pc (544 out of 2,580) of children in the country who required an initial assessment, following a preliminary enquiry, received one within 21 days of receipt of referral."

The report says that the issue has been raised with Tusla and that steps are being taken to address the problem.

But he also warns that "it is crucial that any child reported as being at risk of abuse is catered for in the best possible manner and receives the best service within the quickest possible time ... to minimise the length of time which they remain in a vulnerable state".

The annual report says there has been a 9pc increase in complaints to the office since 2012.

Many complaints related to children being placed in inappropriate care facilities, including direct provision centres and adult psychiatric wards and prisons.

He called on the Government to commit to moving legislation before the next election, so that all 17-year-olds will move out of Wheatfield and St Patrick's Prisons immediately.

Education was the biggest single area of concern, with 47pc of all complaints relating to bullying, individual schools, or the Department of Education itself.

Sexual health strategy aims to combat rising STI levels


Move follows reports highlighting increase in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis

The HSE has launched a new sexual health strategy which aims to ease the “significant increase” in levels of sexually transmitted infections in Ireland.

The first ever National Sexual Health Strategy and Action Plan proposes to improve access to sexual health education and information, and to ensure high-quality sexual health services are available to all on an affordable basis.

The policy was developed after a series of recent reports outlined the rapid growth of diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis among sexually active people.

The European Centre for Disease Control last month identified Ireland as having one of the highest rates of new cases of gonorrhoea across the continent over the last decade, with the incidence of syphilis and chlamydia both doubling in the same period.

The strategy covers the next six years, but specific measures including auditing of all clinical sexual health services and the establishment of a national sexual health training programme will be completed by the end of 2016.

“Our goals are to expand existing services and make it easier for people to get tested,” said Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, who announced the strategy on Thursday.

He said: “It’s really because of the fact that we’ve had a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases in the last couple of years and we want to turn that around.

“The strategy runs over six years, but it’s important that it doesn’t just sit around for six years, that we actually deliver on key actions in the first two years.”

Consultant genitourinary physician Dr Fiona Lyons has been appointed national clinical lead for sexual health services as part of the move, and €150,000 has been allocated to pilot a new rapid HIV testing service in Dublin, along with an expansion to existing services in Cork and Limerick.

Students and gay men are two particular groups being targeted by the plan due to increasing infection rates. Tiernan Brady of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) welcomed the new approach.

He said: “This strategy both calls on all relevant groups to work together to prioritise sexual health, and sets out for the first time a clear plan of how that can happen.

“We especially welcome the strategy’s emphasis on the need to develop specific policies and actions which are targeted and tailored to population groups with specific needs such as gay and bisexual men.”

All pre-school staff will need qualification, Minister says


Dr James Reilly announces new reforms for early childhood care and education

All staff working with children in pre-school settings will be required to have a level 5 qualification under regulations to be published shortly, Minister for Children Dr James Reilly has said.

Dr Reilly was speaking at an international conference in Dublin on monitoring quality in early childhood care and education.

Level 5 is a qualification below degree level in the National Framework of Qualifications.

The Minister said that new inspection requirements would also accompany the regulations and a fund had been established to support professionals to bring their skills up to the necessary level.

He said that a new registration system has been introduced that requires anyone who wants to establish an early-years service to register with Tusla’s inspectorate before they open.

He also said that an extra investment of €85 million in early childhood care and education next year would increase Government spending in the sector by 33 per cent, but that delivering reforms would require a programme of “concerted action and investment over a number of years”.

Dr Reilly said: “The investment required is considerable; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that Ireland’s investment in this area currently represents 0.5 per cent of GDP.

“This compares to an average across the OECD of 0.8 per cent, and Unicef’s international benchmark of 1 per cent of GDP.

“Based on current GDP, every 0.1 per cent increase in public expenditure on childcare requires additional investment of over €180 million.”

OECD report

Dr Reilly also launched a report that was published by the OECD on Wednesday, which examines how countries can develop and use monitoring systems to ensure quality and accountability in early childhood education.

He said that research suggested that much of the benefit for future learning and development of early care and education depended on its quality .

“This is why, as well as extending free access to pre-school provision to children from the age of three and increasing the number of subsidised childcare places for low income and/or disadvantaged working parents, my department will be bringing forward a suite of measures in 2016 to ensure that high standards in early childhood care and education are reached,” Dr Reilly said.

OECD deputy director for education and skills Montserrat Gomendio said that, without monitoring and evaluation, there could be no guarantee that early childhood education and care services met the expected standards for early learning.

Prof Edward Melhuish, professor of human development at the University of Oxford, told the conference that there were two arguments for investing in early childhood care.

The first was a moral argument, based on our duty to optimise wellbeing.

The second was an economic argument, based on the idea that we all benefit from such investment in the long term.

Studies carried out on 3,000 children by Prof Melhuish and others showed that the benefits of the pre-school experience were maintained years after the child had left pre-school.

It had strong effects on literacy, but even stronger effects on numeracy, he said.

The conference was jointly hosted by Pobal, a not-for-profit company that manages programmes on behalf of the Government and the EU, Better Start, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the OECD.

Child sex abuse: Therapy seen as key to prevent re-offending


The need for sex offenders to have access to appropriate treatment services is recognised by Children First, the national guideline for the protection and welfare of children.

One of those is the Building Better Lives (BBL) sex offender programme delivered in Arbour Hill prison by a team of psychologists. It has three components: exploring, practising, and maintaining better lives.


The Exploring Better Lives (EBL) programme is carried out over two months, after which the six-month Practicing Better Lives (PBL) programme is taken. The final four-month Maintaining Better Lives (MBL) programme is taken a minimum of one year after completion of the PBL.


The focus of the Building Better Lives programme is to develop motivation and confidence about positive change. The PBL component focuses on obtaining a more detailed understanding of past offending and developing positive offence-free self-management plans for the future. The MBL component includes a care plan to help with the transition from prison to community based support.

The programmes are not compulsory .

According to Andrew Kelly, spokesperson for the Department of Justice, there were 401 sex offenders within the Irish Prison Service (IPS) as of August 6. Confirming that the BBL programme has been running in Irish prisons since 2009 he says: “The IPS has a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the range and availability of therapeutic interventions for sex offenders in prison and at increasing the participation rates in same.”

Mr Kelly describes the BBL programme as a “therapeutic programme based on international best practice that takes place at individual and group level, for men who acknowledge that they have committed a sexual offence”.


Acknowledging that at present the group programme only operates at Arbour Hill, he says that individual intervention takes place in other prisons.


Typically offenders participating in the BBL programmes undergo six to eight hours of risk assessment. They then engage in 18 sessions aimed at enhancing their motivation and identification of their treatment targets. After that, there is approximately 60 to 70 sessions of in-depth therapeutic and risk relevant work.


Throughout, the prisoners’ progress and level of engagement is reviewed. To remain in the programme, participants must be deemed to be engaging to the required level. Meetings with key supports and family are also undertaken. On average, participating offenders undergo approximately 220 hours of assessment, treatment, support, and planning for resettlement.


At its core, according to Mr Kelly, the BBL entails a very comprehensive and intensive offence-focused intervention that feeds into detailed risk and resettlement planning.


Acknowledging there is an “extensive waiting list” Mr Kelly says there are “between 40 and 50” offenders availing of it.


The Probation Service facilitates the third stand of the programme, focusing on maintenance of risk related change and resettlement issues. It also works with the IPS to ensure assessment intervention and risk management is provided to “the largest number of sex offenders”.


Outside of prison, One In Four runs the Phoenix Programme — a therapeutic intervention programme for child sex offenders.

Executive director Maeve Lewis said: “The aim is to keep children safe. So far we have worked with 119 offenders, and to the best of our knowledge, a total of four of those have subsequently re-offended.”


The programme involves group talk-therapy over a two year period, followed by 18 months attendance at an after-care group. “All the men attending have sexually abused children and all are aware that both Tusla [the child and family agency] and the gardaí are made aware of the identities of those who attend,” Ms Lewis said.


While many of those who have or are attending have never been convicted of a crime, Ms Lewis said: “Very few sex offenders ever face a Garda investigation because most sexually abused victims — while they want the abuse to stop — don’t necessarily want a brother, father or other family member to go to prison.”

Child refugee brides as young as 12 ordered to stay with men they were forced to marry


Child brides as young as 12 have been ordered to stay with the men they were forced to marry after European officials agreed to recognise the partnerships.

It comes amid fears of a paedophilia epidemic inside European refugee camps after a pregnant 14-year-old girl went missing from a Dutch centre.


Fatema Alkasem disappeared along with her 24-year-old husband in August and police are concerned the Syrian girl needs medical care.


The Netherlands is facing an issue of providing asylum to young girls who are married in their homeland but are below the Dutch age of consent.

Dutch asylum centres are reportedly housing 20 child brides aged between 13 and 15, while three a week on average are arriving to the country.


The brides were granted legal permission to join their older partners after the country recognised marriages involving young teenagers if they are officially registered in their home country.

But some have slammed the recognition by Dutch authorities, claiming it condones paedophilia because the age of sexual consent in the Netherlands is 16.


Outraged Dutch Labour MP Attje Kuiken said: "A 12-year-old girl with a 40-year-old man - that is not a marriage, that is abuse.


"We're talking about really young children, girls 12, 13 years old. I want to protect these children."

The Dutch government is amending family laws so that reunification applications only accept marriages when both partners are at least 18-years-old.


But Ms Kuiken called on the government to do more for young Syrian brides until the law is changed in December.


According to Breitbart she said: "The government should take them into foster care and protect them, because before the new law comes into force, they can still be subject to abuse.

Roma family with blonde son settles case for €60k


Roma family with blond son settles case for €60k

A Roma family whose two- year-old blond son was removed overnight from them by gardaí in what their lawyer alleged was a case of “hysterical” and “overzealous” policing has settled its High Court action for €60,000 damages.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott noted that, notwithstanding the very difficult circumstances and undoubted trauma for the child, a medical report suggested he had not suffered personal injuries as a result of his experience.


An opinion from the boy’s senior counsel concerning his claim had noted there could be difficulties proving gardaí have a duty of care in relation to “overzealous” policing in childcare matters, the judge noted. The opinion also expressed the view that it was likely to be argued any such duty could have a “chilling effect”.


In all the circumstances, the judge said he would approve the €60,000 settlement offer, plus High Court costs, for the now four-year-old, who was in court with his parents.

On the application of Peter Bland SC, for the boy, he also directed a small payment out now to meet the costs of a computer for the child, who, the judge was told, likes playing computer games.


The boy was removed from his home in Athlone in October 2013 after members of the public reported concerns he might not be the child of his parents. He was returned to their care the next day.


The parents later sued the Minister for Justice, the Garda Commissioner, and State claiming damages, including aggravated damages, on grounds including alleged negligence, false imprisonment, and infliction of emotional harm.


Mr Bland said the boy and another child, a seven-year-old blonde Roma girl, were both removed by gardaí from their homes in Athlone and Tallaght respectively following “brief hysteria” across Europe when a blonde child, ‘Maria’, was found in a Roma camp in Greece.


The removal of this boy under the Child Care Act 1991 was unwarranted and the Children’s Ombudsman, in an “excellent” report, later concluded it amounted to “ethnic profiling”, Mr Bland said. The family also had reason to believe gardaí leaked matters to the media. The Government had apologised over the matter, the court heard.


Mr Bland said that it was an unusual case involving an “extremely vexed” cause of action which involved imposing a duty of care on gardaí in relation to actions under the Child Care Act. His case would have been that it was fair and reasonable to impose such a duty on gardaí not to act in an overzealous way. The defence to that would argue, when gardaí considered there was a threat to a child, they should not have to worry they might be sued.


Such issues had yet to be decided in Irish law and he could not say he would win should the case proceed, counsel said.


The high water mark of his case would be the Ombudsman’s report, which concluded there was no well-founded suspicion or immediate emergency justifying the actions of the gardaí, he said.


In his ruling, the judge noted counsel’s opinion relating to the difficulties of establishing a common law duty of care on gardaí in child care matters. He also noted there was no tangible, only circumstantial, evidence to support the view gardaí leaked matters to the media.

More than 2,000 Irish schoolchildren 'have had images stolen by porn sites'


More than 2,000 Irish schoolchildren have had their images stolen and misused by online porn sites, according to Child Watch.

It says the unsuspecting students - mostly teenage girls - have fallen victim to having their images abused.

The company, which promotes digital-based security for children, is addressing the National Association of School Principals and Deputy Principals today to help teachers educate children about sharing information online.

It says it had identified 270 teenage girls whose images had been abused, but estimated there were more than 2,000 unreported instances.

Tusla warning Govt to invest in child services


A failure to invest in services for vulnerable children and families could see future costs rise by over nine times their current levels, the Government has been warned.


The business plan of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla), seen by RTÉ's This Week, says there is a "strong and compelling" case for investment.


"Leaving moral and societal values to one side and examining this business case in cold commercial terms, it is clear that resourcing child and family services represents a sensible investment for the State."


The document highlights UK research which estimates savings of over £9 for every £1 invested in early intervention.


The business case notes that such research uses the same methodology as that of Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin's department.


An upfront investment of €79.8m would be needed in 2016 to cover the agency's capital, pay and other requirements, with a further €58m needed by 2018.


An estimated €42.1m would be needed in 2016 to maintain services at current levels.


A failure to invest, the agency argues, will result in discontinuation of services and an inability to respond to the most serious child protection cases in a timely manner.


Preliminary reports of child protection concerns are not all currently being followed up, according to the report, with over one third not being responded to in the initial 24-hour period, as is required.


"Children at serious risk will not be identified quickly and this could result in serious harm to a child", the document warns.


The document expresses concern that resources constraints could also result in the 742 children who have been identified as being at risk not being sufficiently monitored.


It warns of a "failure to monitor child protection plans that ensure children are safe when ongoing risk of harm has been assessed and identified. This can result in significant harm to children and possible death".


Tusla's inability to follow up on over 1,200 retrospective reporting of child abuse made by adults may be leaving children at risk from the same alleged perpetrators and leaving the agency open to legal action.


"Children may be subject to ongoing abuse from an adult perpetrator", the document warns and says that "Tusla may be subject to legal action if our response is not timely and robust in respect of fair procedures".


Tusla also faces additional pay costs of €15m arising from decisions from the Labour Court and Labour Relations Commission.


A Labour Court decision on pay for staff working night shifts will result in an increase of €11m for the agency. Another retrospective pay claim, dating back to before the agency's establishment, will cost Tusla another €4m.


Capital spending of almost €24m is also required, the agency argues, in order to upgrade special care facilities (€20.5m) and roll out ICT (€3.5m) projects, such as the the National Childcare Information System.


Building work includes a fire upgrade at the Ballydowd campus and refurbishment of Creag Aran House for youths with substance abuse issues.


An inability to upgrade facilities would lead the agency to be "guilty of non-compliance on numerous fronts".


These include complying with: "Court orders for the detention of children; HIQA and regulatory standards and fire, Health and safety standards."


The business case also warns of the impact of insufficient investment on staff morale and a danger that board members of the agency may resign.

Drug use among Irish youth above EU average


A new study has found that the levels of use of new synthetic drugs in Ireland are three times the EU average.


The UN report also revealed that Ireland has the fifth highest rate of drug-related deaths among under 25s in the European Union.


These figures were revealed at the launch of this year’s Let’s Talk About Drugs Media Awards on Friday.


The awards encourage discussion of drug and alcohol related issues by inviting young people to produce a piece of original content relating to drug and/or alcohol use.


Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that in order to tackle the problem of alcohol or drug use, it is important young people are targeted with prevention is mind.


“Coming from a background in education I believe that targeting young people with prevention in mind is one of the most important things we can do.


“My first official engagement as Minister of State with Responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy was to attend the awards ceremony for the 2015 competition.


“The standard of the entries was outstanding and it was clear to see from the young people I met at the ceremony that it had got them talking about the misuse of drugs and alcohol and the effects that both can have, not only on young people but the family as a whole.”


The HSE’s Joe Doyle added that young people must challenge misconceptions.


“The primary three problems most commonly associated with the occurrence of child abuse and neglect and identified in families involved with child protection services are; parental problem alcohol and other drug use; domestic violence; and parental mental health problems,” he explained.


Closing date for entries is 22 January 2016 and the overall prize is €2,000.

‘Not enough done’ on child sex abuse


Not enough is being done to keep children safe from sexual harm, according to one of the country’s leading sexual abuse charities.


One in Four has called on the Government to tackle the situation immediately.


“We must encourage adult survivors to come forward and take very seriously their accounts of their childhood experiences,” said executive director Maeve Lewis ahead of today’s launch of the charity’s annual report.


“If we are to keep children safe we must have the commitment and resources to put in place an effective child protection system and a criminal justice system that honours the experience of victims of serious sexual crimes, making sure that sex offenders cannot continue to act with impunity.”

Ms Lewis said this country still has “a long way to go” before it becomes a society where lives are not “blighted by child sexual abuse”.


She said most underage victims of sexual abuse do not come forward, which is why the One in Four organisation has to rely on the testimony of adult survivors.


“Do we really encourage adults to come forward?” said Ms Lewis. “Are their accounts taken seriously by child protection services when they report the person who abused them and is still active in the community? Have we a criminal justice system in place that forces sex offenders to account for their actions? The answer, sadly, is no.”


Last year, the charity provided counselling to 116 survivors and 43 families, a total of 2,643 therapy hours. Advocacy officers from One in Four provided information and support to 672 people.


One in Four also revealed that it had to close its waiting list for four months because it could not afford to employ enough counsellors to deal with the demand for services, something Ms Lewis describes as a “truly terrible situation”.


While Ms Lewis admits she was “heartened” to hear about the new Child and Family Agency, Tusla, which was set up last year, and hoped the response to historic allegations of sexual abuse would improve, she said this was not the case.


“Despite policy and legislative developments, we still meet a child protection service in disarray, with inconsistent responses across the country and poor assessments of risk,” she said.


“We are also not happy with the way anxious, distressed clients are treated by social workers.”


One in Four said it worked with 32 sex offenders and their wives or partners last year. More than a third of the offenders were young men aged between 18 and 25.


“During the past year, sex offenders have travelled from all over the country to access the Phoenix Programme, our sex offender intervention programme,” said Ms Lewis.


“The majority of these men (53%) sexually abused children in their own families. Others abused children they came into contact with in their own communities. Most will never be convicted for their offences because their victims do not want to make a complaint to the gardaí. This means that there are dangerous individuals in every community in this country who are able to continue abusing children.”


This is a problem which needs to be tackled immediately, she said, by properly training gardaí in how to deal with sexual abuse victims in a sensitive manner, by encouraging survivors to come forward, by improving the criminal justice system and by implementing effective intervention programmes for offenders.


For more information on One in Four, go to or phone 01 6624070.

Warning of funds crisis in child protection


Groups providing family support, rape crisis, domestic violence, and marriage counselling services all face further funding cuts, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has warned.

Tusla chief executive Gordon Jeyes said that the agency was in a “constant struggle” to work within budget and more than 5,000 children, some “at significant risk”, were awaiting allocation of a social worker.

“We are managing that risk, teams are monitoring it, they’re looking at it, they’re seeing if it changes, but there’s nevertheless a significant risk because we’re not intervening as early as we could,” he said.

“We are trapped in a cycle of crisis interventions,” he said, adding the situation served nobody.

“Later interventions are not only less effective, they’re more expensive.”

Mr Jeyes was speaking on RTÉ radio after the leaking of a briefing document prepared for a Cabinet subcommittee. The document warns of children being left at risk of serious harm, and seeks a 20% increase in Tusla’s budget over the next three years, amounting to an extra €132m.

Mr Jeyes said that, without additional funding, there would be further cuts to the specialist groups that work on Tusla’s behalf in a range of family support fields.

“It is an unfortunate truth that if we remain trapped in crisis intervention where we must intervene because of the risk of significant harm, then the pressure will remain on that we will have to reduce the services listed,” said Mr Jeyes.

ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long said the document was “deeply concerning” but not surprising.

“Tusla warnings on resourcing of child protection reflects ISPCC experience on the ground,” she said.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children, Robert Troy, said: “This Government is walking child protection services into an emergency situation.”

Child care order cases reveal themes of abuse


The misery of children finding nothing under the tree on Christmas morning while their mother slept off a hangover upstairs is just one of the heart-rending cases to feature in the latest batch of reports from the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP).

One of the children, a young girl, whose mother hit her and called her “a scruffy little knacker”, had run away from home to live with her grandfather but continued to fret about the welfare of her younger brother.


In a letter to the court she wrote: “I’m scared for my younger brother. Who is getting him dressed and bringing him to school?”


She told her social care leader that she wanted to live in foster care “because most of the time at home I’m being hit by my ma, she calls me a ‘scruffy little knacker, a disgrace and a scumbag’.”

The girl told her that for Christmas last year she had asked for new shoes, but when she got up at 9.30 “there were no presents under the tree”.


Her little brother got very upset because he thought that Santa had not come.


Their mother got up and told them to go back to bed, then they heard noises in the attic and when they went downstairs “there weren’t as many presents as we’d hoped for”.


Her mother had been out all of Christmas Eve night.


The girl said that her mother “drinks in the house all the time, there were always loads of parties”.


At one party, an adult sat on the sofa beside her, and then “touched her in her private parts and asked if she was ok”, the social care leader told the court.


She said her friends were “telling me to call Childline”.


She had last seen her father four years ago. He had sent her a Communion card which she thought her mother had ripped up.


The judge granted a full care order saying the child “has nowhere else to go”.


Recurrent themes of intergenerational substance abuse, deprivation, learning disabilities, sexual and physical abuse and serious mental health problems feature prominently in the 37 latest cases published by the CCLRP.


In one case the parents abandoned their opposition to an application for a care order when the court heard the children had been living in a house where there was no heating or food, a young girl ate baby formula from the tin because there was nothing else, and the floor was covered in rotten food and dog faeces.


Rats had been seen in the house. One child stank of urine. After three days of evidence the parents’ barrister conceded the Child and Family Agency case was “unassailable”.


Social services had been involved with the family for three generations.

Report finds children from poorer backgrounds feel teachers don't understand them


Children from low-income families are less likely to feel like their teachers understand them, and are also less likely to ask their parents for help with homework.

That’s according to a new report launched by Barnardos this morning which calls for primary school education to be made completely free, at an estimated cost of around €103m a year - or an extra €185 per pupil.

Barnardos CEO, Fergus Finlay, said: "Thay are much more likely to be in larger classrooms, they are much more likely to be in schools that don’t have all the facilities they need.

"You are going to find, as a consequence of that, that children are struggling in school."

Head of Advocacy with Barnardos, June Tinsley, says that children can be very aware of the circumstances that they are in, and how that may affect their growth.

She said: "Some young people commented how they don’t like where they live, because it's exposed to anti-social behaviour and the gardaí are frequently around.

"Others are shielded from the realities, because parents are making a number of sacrifices."

Bullied obese children miss long tracts of school year


Aoife Brinkley, a senior clinical psychologist at the child obesity service at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, said seven out of ten children at the clinic reported bullying, with one tenth self-harming as a result, and suffering with depression and anxiety disorders.


With a quarter of Irish children classed as overweight or obese, it is thought more and more will be psychologically affected by bullying as a new international report pinpointed weight as the most common form of playground teasing.


Dr Brinkley said children with obesity can be so affected by bullying they can no longer face going into the classroom. “We see kids refusing to go to school. We would have a little group that have struggled or missed a huge amount of school because of the bullying they have experienced.”


The leading psychologist said she has seen bullying resulting in children becoming so socially anxious they can’t go outside their house.

“We would have a lot of children who have attempted to hurt themselves and harm themselves. We would have children with depression, symptoms of anxiety.


“There is a lot of social anxiety where children or teenagers are struggling to go outside the house because they feel so self-conscious.


“It can become a vicious cycle where a young person teased or bullied doesn’t want to leave the house and is gaining weight because they are not leaving the house.”


She said bullying can begin to have much more serious consequences towards the end of primary school.


“Maybe they have been bullied on and off from third class and fourth class but maybe things continuing into fifth class and sixth class, so it means that transition to secondary school is particularly difficult for those kids.”


She said a survey carried out among children with obesity attending the W82GO Healthy Lifestyles Programme in Temple Street, which sees an average of 150 children a year, showed 57% of children experienced moderate bullying with 11% subjected to severe bullying.

“With girls it tends to be name-calling, left out of games. As they get older it tends to be more of a serious nature. Targeted exclusion over a period of time, repeated comments and we have had some children where there has been quite serious cyber bullying on social media.”


She said there are also a lot of misconceptions around childhood obesity in Ireland. “A lot of the stigma is that people think that it’s simple — that they need to eat less or be more active. That is true to some degree but sometimes there are barriers to stop them doing that which are absolutely insurmountable whether it’s parents’ substance use or mental health within the family.


“I’d like to break down the myth that it is a simple thing or it is the parents’ fault. It is very complex and a really difficult thing to change.”

'32 children protected' as PSNI arrest 25 people over child abuse images


A police operation targeting child abusers in Northern Ireland claims to have protected 32 children from harm by making 25 arrests.

Steps have been taken to safeguard and protect the 32 children in the North deemed at potential risk from the detained individuals.

None of the children safeguarded were subjects in the indecent images. Instead, they would have had contact with those who have been arrested on suspicion of using the internet to access the abuse pictures.

Four of the 25 have been charged to date, with more prosecutions expected once digital forensic testing of seized computer equipment is completed.

It was the first joint PSNI and the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) swoop on those accessing online images of child abuse in the North.

The operation – codenamed Jarra – commenced in May when the UK crime fighting agency finally became fully operational in the region, almost two years after it began work in the rest of the UK.

The delay was down to a political row over how to make NCA officers subject to the same accountability mechanisms that regulate the PSNI.

Dr Zoe Hilton, head of child protection for NCA/CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) said children abused in the pictures would be from all over the world.

She delivered a stark message to those engaged in the crime.

“There is no safe place on the internet for anyone who seeks to look at or share indecent images of children. It’s a very serious crime…They are leaving a digital footprint and we will find them,” she said.

As well as the joint operation with NCA, the PSNI’s pre-existing online child protection unit has made 21 of its own arrests since April – six of whom have been charged.

That brings to 46 the number detained on suspicion of accessing indecent images of children in the past six months in the North.

Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke, from PSNI’s Public Protection Branch, said the NCA had “substantially” bolstered capacity for tackling online abuse images.

“Webs of this sort of activity are international. This sort of activity is not confined to one particular county, to one particular country – it’s international,” he said. “It’s truly huge in its scope – that’s another advantage that the PSNI gain from working with the National Crime Agency, who do have an international reach.”

He made clear Operation Jarra was just the beginning of the joint PSNI/NCA drive to combat the crime.

“There will be more operations. There will be more arrests. We will bring more people to justice,” he said.

The eventual political deal at Stormont that enabled full empowerment of the NCA was made possible by the introduction of beefed-up oversight measures to ensure agency officers were accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and subject to scrutiny by the independent police complaints watchdog, the NI Police Ombudsman.

Families want set jail term for knife offences


Families of homicide victims are calling for mandatory sentences for unlawful possession of knives after an almost 60% jump in knife murders last year.

Figures provided to the Irish Examiner show that 19 people were murdered with knives or sharp objects in 2014, compared to 12 in 2013.


This figure represents the highest number of such fatalities since 2009, when there were also 19 deaths, and the joint second-highest in recent history.


Advocates for Victims of Homicide (AdVic) said many young men are “going out armed with knives” and said there was a growing trend in ‘glassing’ attacks in pubs and clubs.

AdVic called for mandatory sentences for unlawful possession of knives, with a first offence attracting a one-year term; a second offence punishable by a minimum five years in prison; and a third offence receiving a minimum 10-year sentence — all without any possibility of early release.

“Legislation needs to be introduced which means that if you are caught with a knife on your person and have no reasonable excuse, you will earn a mandatory sentence,” said AdVic chief executive and criminologist John O’Keeffe.


The figures, provided by the Central Statistics Office, show that in relation to violent knife crime:


  • Threats of murder involving a knife or sharp object trebled to 35 in 2014, by far the highest on recent records. That trend continued in the first three months of 2015, with 10 incidents;
  • Carjackings involving a knife more than doubled to 33 in 2014, the highest since 2008. The trend continued in the first quarter of 2015, with eight cases;
  • Aggravated (violent) burglaries increased to 105 in 2014 from 98 in 2013. That trend accelerated in the first quarter of 2015, with 38 incidents;
  • Robberies from institutions involving knives fell to 386 in 2014, but jumped in the first quarter of 2015, with 133 incidents;
  • Assaults involving knives have dropped from a peak in 2010, but are still higher than in 2004.

In total, there were 3,347 recorded crimes involving knives in 2014. This is down significantly on the peak in 2010 (4,314), but considerably higher than 2004 (2,844).


This is in large part due to fluctuations in the number of people caught in possession of offensive weapons, which went from 780 in 2004 to 1,563 in 2010 and to 1,034 in 2014.


Such offences, in part, are determined by enforcement levels and parallel fluctuations in Garda numbers, which went from 12,000 in 2004, to 14,500 in 2010, to around 12,800 in 2014.


“While less serious crime may be decreasing, serious violent crime shows little sign of abating, particularly in relation to knife and glass attacks,” said Mr O’Keeffe.


He added that many young men were now going out armed with knives or “the new weapon of choice — the pub/club glass”.


He said successive governments had “failed to understand the horror of knife crime”. He called on stores to be restricted in what type of knife they could sell.


A Garda spokesman said an analysis of current knife-related murders suggest the majority are off street and victims know the offender.


“If you carry a knife, you stand a high chance of having that knife used on yourself,” the spokesman said.


In 2009, gardaí launched a national awareness campaign, entitled ‘How Big Do You Feel’, educating young people about knife crime.


The spokesman said it continued the work in its schools programme, which reached 7,000 schools in 2014.



Videos created to support parents after loss of child


Anam Cara, the charity which provides support to bereaved families, has launched a series of videos to offer hope to those who have experienced the death of a child.


"The videos are a powerful resource to any family experiencing the sudden death of a child," said Sharon Vard, CEO of Anam Cara. "Newly bereaved parents and families need the support of those who have suffered a similar experience and learned to cope again.


"They need reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that they too will be able to emerge from the depths of despair and start living and enjoying life again."


There are five videos on the organisation's YouTube channel, which feature bereaved parents as they discuss their personal experiences of losing a child.


They also tell of how they learned to cope afterwards.


Anam Cara is an organisation set up in 2008 by bereaved parents, which aims to address the lack of support services available for families in Ireland who have lost a child.

Text service gives suicidal men a voice


More men are opening up about their mental health problems than before thanks to a text service operated by suicide prevention charity Console, which is being hailed as a “breakthrough” in suicide prevention.

Traditionally, the organisation has seen more women than men getting in contact — 61% of all calls to their helpline are from females.


Now, with the implementation of a new text service, those figures have been reversed — 62% of those contacting the organisation through text are men.


“We’ve over 500 people dying annually in Ireland through suicide, and most of them are young men,” said Console CEO Paul Kelly. So we weren’t reaching our audience. We decided to do something with social media and we introduced our texting service which was to text Help to 51444 and it was extraordinary, it all shifted around. We got 62% of young men texting the service.

“They may not talk but we have found that they will text. And, in that way, we are meeting them where they are, not where we think they should be.”

The organisation said men are four times more likely to take their own lives than their female counterparts and until now no organisation has been able to convince young men who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts to open up.


This year, Console has seen a 49% increase in the overall amount of texts they are receiving. Almost 4,000 people texted the service during the first half of this year, compared to 2,617 for the same period last year.

Musician, television personality, and mental health campaigner Niall Breslin, also known as Bressie, praised the initiative.


“Some men just don’t have the language,” he said. “The fact is they might have been brought up in houses where emotion wasn’t on the agenda and people didn’t want to address it.


“And men have this silly macho belief system that has just been bred into us and the reality is some of the toughest, most inspiring, intellectual men I know are people who deal with mental health issues.


“Men are starting to now see there are things you can do, there really are things you can do. This isn’t something you can do on your own, that’s a fact. You cannot do this on your own.”


Bressie, who has released a book about his struggles with mental health issues called Me and My Mate Jeffrey, said the family and friends of those experiencing difficulties are also affected.

“I’ve been doing book signings all over the country the past two weeks and what’s really sad is I’ve had wives coming into me saying ‘My husband’s out in the car, it’s for him, he can’t come in, he’s not ready’,” he said. “And I can see how much it’s affecting her as well. So this isn’t just about the person, it’s about the family and friends too.”


“Everybody feels pain; men, women, all ages, all genders, all demographics, all backgrounds. Pain is pain. That’s something I try to speak about as much as possible.”

Call for child protection public health nurses


There should be more child protection public health nurses, according to the findings of a study which highlighted the vital role they play in spotting and dealing with neglect cases.


The study, carried out for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, focused on the child protection public health nurse in South Lee in Cork — the only area to have someone in the dedicated role.


The report found there was a role for child protection public health nurses to work within the Child and Family Agency, to provide clinical expertise in child health and development and to be the link between Tusla and local primary care teams.


It also says a strategy should be developed to support assistant directors of public health nursing in developing skills in supervision to enable them to keep pace with the increasing complexity of child welfare and protection cases.

It says that professionals such as social workers and public health nurses “experience substantial barriers to developing and maintaining effective inter-disciplinary working relationships”, including “a lack of understanding of professional roles and responsibilities, lack of supervision, high caseloads and mistrust between the professionals involved.


“These challenges are linked to poor outcomes for children and families,” according to the report.


However, in the South Lee social work department a child protection public health nurse role was developed in 2001, initially as a pilot project.


It is still the only area to have that role in place, but according to the report, having a child protection public health nurse meant a greater focus on children under the age of five; assistance with assessments of home conditions; and supports for parents.


“Social workers were of the view that child protection public health nurses should co-work cases with them which could include assessment of risk to a child especially from a neglect and health perspective,” it said.


Neglect accounted for more than half of the cases referred to the social work department in 2013, and while the child protection public health nurse responds to referrals from different teams, “in recent years the pattern of neglect has meant the role focuses mainly on issues concerning very young children which are dealt with by the duty team and the more in-depth assessment undertaken by the intake team”.


The study, put together by Patricia O’Dwyer, Sheila Cahalane, and Susanne Pelican-Kelly, can be viewed at

High childcare costs preventing mothers staying in workforce


Almost half of mothers say the high cost of childcare has prevented them returning to work after the birth of a child.

Most mothers want the Government to introduce income tax relief in the next Budget to help them defray the cost of childcare.

And huge numbers of working women have considered delaying having children because of poor maternity benefits, according to a survey of 1,000 mothers by online forum for mums and RecruitIreland.

Workplaces are not mother-friendly, according to the survey.

The research indicates that flexible work hours and cheaper childcare would help mums get back into the labour force after having a child.

Nine out of 10 women admitted to searching for a new role to get better benefits when planning their family.

And 43pc of women considered delaying their baby plans due to a lack of, or poor, maternity benefits in their workplace.

The majority of mothers said they could not live on the State maternity benefit of €230 a week, before tax.

A change in 2013 meant that this money is taxed if mothers get some pay from their employer just after a baby is born.

The change has cost new mothers up to €2,700 in tax.

Most mothers said they did not understand the changes to the taxation of maternity benefit.

A poor work-life balance for most mothers was blamed on a lack of flexibility in the workplace.

Working mothers say they would apply for a new role if it had flexible working hours and better maternity benefit.

Two thirds of those surveyed said they wanted more flexible working hours in their job, and half of those questioned said they would like part-time or shorter working weeks, while one-in-five would be happy to job-share.

Guilt is a huge issue for mothers.

Some 88pc of working mothers admitted to feeling guilty, triggered by instances such as a child being ill.

A third of those questioned said they used a childminder, a similar proportion use a crèche, while 27pc have the children looked after by a family member.

Laura Haugh of said mothers were finding it tough.

"Our mums are struggling financially on maternity leave and emotionally upon their return to work."

She said some of mothers welcome the mental stimulation and social aspects of returning to work, but this does not outweigh the huge guilt they feel having to leave their young children in childcare.

"While the decision to return to work is financially necessary for most of our mums surveyed, the cost of childcare has prevented nearly half of our mums returning to work," Ms Haugh said.

She said it was time for the Government to step-up and put proposals into concrete action. The new National Childcare Proposal is a 10-year plan, but action was needed now, she said.

Sinéad Johnson, commercial manager for employment website, said flexible working options can all go a long way to easing the childcare and emotional stress that mums are feeling.

Government urged to tackle child obesity crisis


Calls are being made for more to be done to tackle Ireland's childhood obesity rates.


Children as young as two years of age are being treated for obesity at some Irish hospitals.


In one case - at Temple Street in Dublin - a child was treated who weighed almost double the average weight for their age group.


Obese children suffer from various health problems, but there are also major psychological effects associated with the condition.


Edna Roche, consultant endocrinologist at Tallaght Hospital and member of the Irish Heart Foundation's Nutrition Council, said that the problem is growing.


"If you look at the data which is coming out from the Longitudinal Growing Up In Ireland study, almost 19% of our three-year-olds are … overweight, and about 6% of those are obese," she said.


"If you have a girl who is obese in the early stages of school, when she's six years of age, there's about a 60% chance that she will be obese when she's 35 years of age."

Good nutrition for children is a no-brainer


Helen O’Callaghan on putting a back-to-school focus on kids’ diet.

With school starting, children will face many demands on their concentration and energy, so it’s important parents do their homework and fill nutritional gaps in kids’ diets.


Key nutrients to focus on are iron, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids – all essential brain foods.


The WHO estimates iron deficiency accounts for 40-50% of anaemia in children – symptoms are paleness, tiredness, irritability and poor appetite.

“Iron is really important for children who are trying to learn. Without it, they’re more tired and less well able to oxygenate the brain as it learns,” explains Daniel McCartney, DIT lecturer in dietetics .


Good iron sources include red meat, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), offal and eggs. Aim for red meat three times weekly, oily fish at least twice and eggs on a couple days of the week.


Plant sources of iron (look for fortified breakfast cereals, wholemeal cereals, green leafy vegetables, peas, beans, nuts, dried fruits) also raise intake, but require vitamin C to aid absorption (found in most fruits and in tomatoes, broccoli, peppers).


Another key brain food is omega-3, found in dark- fleshed fish – salmon, sardines, mackerel, kippers, trout (rainbow), fresh tuna, herring and pilchards.


Plant sources include oils (rapeseed or canola oil, walnut, soya oil), dark green vegetables, nuts and flaxseeds.


Calcium and vitamin D (sunshine vitamin) are essential for strong bone development, with vitamin D also important for brain development.


Yet, 37% of girls and 28% of boys aged five to 12 don’t get recommended daily amounts of calcium. And 88% of primary school children have less than half the recommended daily amount of vitamin D.


“If a child has good vitamin D levels, it’ll help the brain develop connections. Everyone over age five should take a 5mcg daily vitamin D supplement,” says McCartney.


Look for vitamin D in oily fish, fortified foods and eggs. Calcium-rich foods include yogurt, milk, cheese, bread, nuts and some dark green vegetables.


Meanwhile, research suggests mild dehydration can lead to lower concentration and mental performance in children. In one study, 58 seven- to nine-year-olds were put in two groups: one group followed their normal drinking habits – the other got extra water (250ml).


The latter group performed better in visual attention tasks. Another study found having access to a 250ml bottle of water significantly improved kids’ visual attention and fine motor skills in school.




* A good night’s sleep followed by breakfast helps a child concentrate and stay active.


* Ensure breakfast includes at least two fruits or vegetables, as well as healthy proteins (milk, yoghurt, eggs, nuts, seeds).


* Encourage your child to drink water before each meal/snack.


* School lunch should include at least two vegetables/fruits; healthy proteins (meat, fish, poultry, beans, peas, lentils, milk, yogurt, eggs); and high fibre carbohydrates.

Coalition to publish plan for people with autism


Training and measures aimed at gardaí and those working in Government departments

The Government will publish a plan for people with autism, including targeted training for gardaí, health staff and local housing officers.

A Cabinet subcommittee on health has agreed to include a number of specific proposals in a revised National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan.

The proposals include ensuring that public service workers receive awareness training, as well as drawing up new guidelines for gardaí and those working in the justice system for engagement with people with autism.

A briefing note discussed at the subcommittee, seen by The Irish Times, said specific measures across a number of Government departments, including Justice, Health, Education and Environment, need to be introduced.

The Department of Justice and Equality will be called on to launch an autism awareness initiative, while the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health will be required to upskill some of their key personnel.

The briefing note also listed the requirement for specific and targeted training in autism for teachers and special needs assistants.

Young people

The Cabinet subcommittee note outlined the need for a pilot project aimed at supporting young people with disabilities to help them make the transition from second level education to further education, training and employment.

The plan, which is due to be launched in the autumn, will say local authority housing officers should also avail of autism training.

It will say the National Disability Agency should help the Department of the Environment to develop guidelines on providing suitable housing and supports for people affected by autism.

1% of the population

Autism is believed to affect one in 100 people in Ireland, but no specific actions are included in the current National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan, which has run from 2013 and is due to expire this year.

The Government said there was a gap that needed to be rectified, and that consultation had begun with autism stakeholders.

This is the first such plan in Ireland and will be published alongside a comprehensive employment strategy for people with a disability.

A range of new measures, including appointing special-needs assistants to preschool children, are being considered for that initiative. This could mean assistants would be hired to work in preschools in an effort to intervene at the earliest stage.

A Government source said the strategy would be about empowering employers to hire people with disabilities and to assist those who acquired a disability in their employment.

“There will be individual measures with clear targets,” according to the source. “The targets are reasonably ambitious. This is an issue of justice, not charity.”


How to prepare your child for primary school


The first days of primary school can be difficult for children even if they have had the benefit of a pre-school experience says Helen O’Callaghan.

FOR the past month, you’ve had your soon-to-be junior infant try on his school uniform whenever visitors call.


You’ve emphasised the excitement of big school at every turn.


Now you’ve started to count down with him the number of sleeps until the big day.

“Stop!” say experts. Making too big a fuss of big school can build excitement up to unbearable levels for your child.


“Treat it as like going to a new supermarket, something very normal,” says Montessori lecturer Clare Healy Walls.


She advises going low on the drama — ‘yes, you’re starting school on Monday’, so child thinks ‘Mum isn’t getting too fussed about it so I’ll be okay’.


Primary school will require huge adjustment, even if your child has been to pre-school. The children in the school yard will be bigger, there will be more of them.


It’s going to be noisier and your child will have one teacher who can’t give him the individual attention he’s used to.


He’ll need to be more independent — take off and hang up his coat, open and close his school bag/lunchbox, go to the toilet alone.


“The normal securities are gone — Mum used to come to the pre-school door to collect him, now she comes to the school-gate. He has to put out his own lunch — in pre-school the teacher did it for him. Little things [like these] can upset a child,” says Healy Walls.


Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, says the free ECCE pre-school year has resulted in more confident junior infants. But the transition still brings challenges.


“The school uniform can be challenging. They don’t like the feel or weight of it. They have to figure out how to eat their lunch in a specified amount of time.”


Heeney says because of the Aistear curriculum — framework for pre-school and first two years of primary — junior infants should recognise something of their pre-school in their classroom.


“They should see areas — play areas, book and block corners, sand and home corners. The room should reflect the insight that children learn through play activity.”


The junior infant curriculum is very enjoyable, agrees Deirdre Sullivan, training and development officer with the National Parents Council Primary (NPCP). But the day is longer and learning is more structured.


“In pre-school, children can choose what activity they want to do and when to do it. In a junior infant class of 30 that can’t happen. A specified time is spent on each activity.


"Everybody does it together and moves to the next activity at the same time. This more structured learning requires greater concentration, so children will be tired.”


Mum-in-residence at Laura Haugh was a new mother at the school-gate last September, when her son, James, now six, started junior infants.


“The biggest change for him was definitely the noise level. He found it intimidating in the first few weeks — there were 30 in his class, the noise in the corridors and in the schoolyard at playtime.


"His Montessori had a play area with 20 children — now there were 250 children in the yard. He didn’t like playtime.”


The situation was managed with teacher’s help, who kept a special eye on him in the yard.


“They twinned him with a child in first class who looked after him for the first eight weeks. After mid-term, he was totally fine.”


Heeney says schools recognise the impact on newbies of being the smallest in the community. Her children had ‘helping angels’ — an older child, who played with them in the yard and showed them around, helping them negotiate the transition.


Primary school represents a change in the order surrounding the child’s life, says Healy Walls.


“In this age group, routine and order are important to children. They can cope with change but not too much. Parents should make everything else in the child’s life as stable and orderly as possible.


" Don’t come home from holidays the day before. Have a rhythm... so that school is the only big change.”


Parents have to adjust too. The big challenge is they don’t have as intimate a connection with the child’s life now, says Healy Walls.


“In most pre-schools, they’d have got feedback on everything. The [primary school] teacher doesn’t have time.”


While Laura Haugh enjoyed the extra ‘me time’ her child’s longer school day afforded, she found homework the biggest surprise.


“I wasn’t expecting him to come home with homework from week two. It was quite academic from the beginning.


"We had to spend 25 minutes every evening learning phonic sounds. After Christmas it increased — there was a lot of reading and letter formation.


Sean Cottrell, Irish Primary Principals’ Network CEO, says it’s important parents allay their anxieties and avoid letting any negative school experience they had colour how they communicate with their child about primary school.


“It’s a significant milestone to leave pre-school and enter the beginning of formal education. Some parents can be very anxious — it isn’t in a child’s best interests to display that anxiety.”


Visit for ‘Going to Big School’, leaflet published by Early Childhood Ireland and National Parents Council Primary.


In the run-up to your child’s first day at school:


  • Create opportunities to chat about what s/he’s looking forward to and what s/he’s worried about. Keep conversation relaxed.


  • Acclimatise child to school route. Visually acquaint child with school, even from the outside.


  • Arrange play-date with senior infant child, who can tell yours what he remembers about his first days: what classroom’s like, where to hang coat, says Early Childhood Ireland CEO, Teresa Heeney.


  • Involve child in preparations — choosing lunchbox/school bag/pencil case; sticking labels with name on books.


  • Ensure s/he’s comfortable with uniform, for example, how to take jumper off, if too hot.


  • Get child in good sleep routine.

ISPCC backs age restrictions for videos


The ISPCC has welcomed a UK scheme to put age restrictions on music videos and called for other countries to adopt similar measures.


The British Board of Film Classification pilot scheme saw videos from UK singers like Ellie Goulding and Dizzee Rascal rated during a pilot scheme to rate and place age restrictions on online music videos.


Sony Music UK, Warner Brothers UK and Universal Music UK co-operated with the board and online platforms YouTube and Vevo to develop the government-backed ratings system, which is now to be made permanent and extended to independent music labels.


However, US singers such as Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Robin Thicke have come under fire for the sexual and violent content of their videos, but so far the age restrictions are limited to UK singers and bands.

“We would welcome any country adopting such a system,” ISPCC spokeswoman Mary Nicholson said.


“It’s very obvious that kids and other young people are currently being exposed to far too much explicit online material and all these moves are a step in the right direct ion. However, it will be interesting to see how this will work in practice,” she said.


The Irish charity, which has previously warned of the effects of graphic and sexualised online material on children and teens, also warned that parents still need to monitor their children’s viewing habits.


“What is obvious is that it’s far too easy for young children to access overly sexualised content,” Ms Nicholson said.


“Age guides are a big help for parents, but you still need to monitor your children’s viewing. There’s no one answer to this but it is good to see corporates, governments and parents working together,” she said.


Of 132 music videos in the trial, 56 were suitable for over 12s while 53 were 15s. Only Dizzee Rascal’s Couple Of Stacks, which has a horror-movie themed video with graphic depictions of dismemberment and torture, was deemed 18s.


Ellie Goulding’s video for Love Me Like You Do, which was featured on the soundtrack of the 50 Shades of Grey movie and includes clips of sex scenes, received a 15s rating.

Videos uploaded to YouTube by UK singers and bands that have been given a 15 or 18 certificate won’t load automatically and the rating will be displayed on the video’s information.


“We’re very happy to support the British Board of Film Classification in this endeavour,” Youtube spokeswoman Thea O’Hear said.


“The pilot is now being made permanent and being rolled out to include a six month pilot for independent labels,” she said.


Although the scheme only applies to UK performers, Ms O’Hear was keen to stress that all clips from any country, including music videos, fall under YouTube’s community guidelines. Any video flagged by a user as having inappropriate content is reviewed and is subject to Youtube’s own rules on content.

Minister willing to help family of Limerick man killed in US


Minister willing to help family of Limerick man killed in US

The Minister for Foreign Affairs is willing to intervene to help the family of Limerick man Jason Corbett, whose children are at the centre or a custody battle in North Carolina, a senior Cabinet minister has said.


However Jan O'Sullivan says it may not be the most appropriate course of action as there are legal issues which the consulate is currently dealing with.


Irish citizens Jack, 10, and his eight-year-old sister Sarah Corbett were taken into the care of US social services following the death of their father last weekend.


The 39-year-old's body has been repatriated and is due home tomorrow, while a custody hearing regarding the two children is due to take place in North Carolina on Friday.


Mr Corbett, originally from Janesboro in Limerick, was found dead at his home in Wallburg, North Carolina on 3 August following what the authorities described as a domestic disturbance.


The father of two moved to the southern US state with his young children four years ago, following the death of their mother Mags, and later married local woman Molly Martins, 32, who has been questioned by the police following his death.


Mr Corbett's sister Tracey Lynch and her husband David who were appointed legal guardians to the Corbett children are among the family members who have travelled to the US in an attempt to gain custody of the children.


None of the Corbett family have been allowed any contact with the children since they arrived in North Carolina over a week ago, and a custody hearing will take place on Friday.


Mr Corbett's remains are due to arrive into Dublin airport at 9.30am tomorrow morning, however the family insist he will not be buried until his children are back in Ireland.


There have been repeated calls on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to intervene in the case.


Fianna Fáil Deputy Wilie O'Dea has claimed the children's human rights have been violated in the "most appalling manner".


Speaking in Limerick today, Minister O'Sullivan insisted that Charlie Flanagan is willing to intervene in the process if necessary.


However, she said that Minister Flanagan personally intervening may not be "the most effective thing to do".


"I know the Minister is willing to intervene but there are processes there.


"The Department of Foreign Affairs has been extremely good in situations like this where these kinds of terrible situations happen to Irish citizens and has a lot of expertise in that area and I know that there is an absolute willingness to do everything that is possible to assist the family.


"I know the Minister wants to do do as much as he can and I would support that. I know that help has been offered through the consulate in the United States.


"This is an extraordinarily terrible time for the family and a very, very distressing situation not only to lose their family members but also the concern about the children, but I understand there is a legal process which is about to take place in the United States," she said.


"The consulate and the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Government is there to assist the family and wants to assist the family but I understand that this process is something that has to take place under US law but the assistance is there and will be provided in whatever way it can be."


Mr Corbett's body is to be returned home with the help of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which was established by the parents of a young man from Co Down, who was killed in a hit-and-run in New York two years ago.


The Trust aims to help families whose loved ones have died in similarly tragic and unforeseen circumstances while abroad.


Meanwhile, a separate fund has been set up in Limerick to help Mr Corbett's family with travel expenses and legal costs which are expected to run into the tens of thousands of euro.


Anyone who wishes to donate to "Jason's Journey" can do so through a TSB Bank Account number: 11240513, Sort Code 990751.

William Winder Rainbow Foundation suicide charity appeals for funding


A suicide prevention charity, which provides free counselling services to vulnerable young people, has been forced to cut its allocation of counselling hours in half due to a lack of funds.

The William Winder Rainbow Foundation has provided more than 4,000 free hours of professional counselling to young people since it was established three years ago.


Rural parts of west and north Clare have experienced a marked increase in incidences of self-harm and suicide in recent years and the foundation has been struggling to keep pace with the increased demand.


The charity, set up following the tragic death of west Clare teenager William Winder in 2012, currently operates without any financial support from the HSE or any other arms of the State.

It was established by William Winder’s parents, Mark and Caroline Winder, who have been forced to cut the number of counselling hours offered to at-risk young people from 10 to just five.


They fear the entire foundation could be forced to close unless a source of funding is found soon.


They have appealed to l politicians to rally behind the work of the foundation and help to fast-track a funding application lodged with the HSE.


“Our funds are so low that we could face shutting down, it is that bad. Four thousand hours of counselling have been used in Clare but, because of the lack of funds, we’ve had to cut our counselling services from 10 [sessions per child] to five. We’ve done this so we won’t close down,” said charity founder Mark Winder.


“We are not government funded, every bit of money we spend we have to raise ourselves. And it’s not just around this area [of west Clare], it is right across all of rural Clare, from Kilkee right up to Fanore.


“It’s not just in this area that kids are dying, there is a serious issue right up the whole coast of Clare,” he said.


“We have been trying to get funding from the HSE but it’s a slow process. Hopefully things will start changing. We need the local politicians to rally to us.


“This is our community, so many people are dying in Clare, it’s an emergency situation, and I would like to invite any local politician to come and help us to get the support that we need.


“We have to get back to the community coming together. The community needs to stand by this [the foundation] because it is our community that is dying.


“I’ve been to so many funerals this year already, it takes its toll, it really does.”

The foundation is also advocating for a system of continuous assessment to be introduced into second-level schools in Ireland as a way of removing unnecessary stress from vulnerable young people lives.


William Winder took his own life in June 2012, just three days before the start of his Junior Certificate exams, aged just 15 years.


More than 119,000 students will receive the results of state exams over the next six weeks with the Leaving Certificate results due to be released this Wednesday, and Junior Certificate results due in mid-September.


Parents have been warned to be extra vigilant and mindful of their children at these times of extra stress and anxiety.

Sending child to secondary school ‘costs almost €800’


Barnardos survey finds 20% of parents take out loans to cover second level costs

The cost of sending a child to secondary school has climbed by more than five times the rate of general inflation and is now just under €800, according to a survey to be published by Barnardos on Tuesday.

The survey of 1,400 parents tots up the average cost of books, uniforms and voluntary contributions and puts the back-to-school costs for first year pupils at secondary school at €785, up €50 on the previous year.

The survey suggests that the average price of books has gone up by close to €25 while the average voluntary contribution being asked for by secondary schools is €150.

Speaking on Tuesday, Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said “every child in Ireland is supposed to have an absolute right” to free primary school education but he said the reality was August and September were “point of extreme pressure for families”.

According to the survey 10 per cent of primary school parents and 20 per cent of secondary school parents said they took out loans to cover the costs.

A separate study published last month by the Irish League of Credit Unions painted an ever bleaker picture for parents.

It added up the cost of uniforms, books, lunches, extracurricular activities, school trips, voluntary contributions, transport and sports gear. and found that parents of children in the primary system will spend an average of €816 per child while parents of secondary school children will spend an average of €1,313 per child.

According to Barnardos the Government would have to spend an additional €103 million to make the primary system genuinely free.

Interview with Carlos Kelly, President of Social Care Ireland (SCI)


Speaking to Social Care Training Ireland, Carlos Kelly, President of Social Care Ireland (SCI), had this to say:

First of all, I am very happy with the appointment of the Social Care Registration Board. They were appointed in April 2015 and they met for the first time last month. I think it’s worth noting that the composition of the board is also very strong and encompasses a great deal of expertise from across the social care sector.

The Social Care Registration Board is the first step in a clear chain of ensuring the professionalisation of the sector and protecting the public, by ensuring that social care practitioners are adequately trained and qualified to work in the sector.  We are privileged that the Social Care Registration Board will acknowledge and look to Social Care Ireland as the sector’s representative body.

We are in the process of changing the structure of Social Care Ireland, creating a company limited by guarantee with a number of directors with clear responsibilities. It’s important to move from an association to a company with clear remit and objectives, representing educators, managers and workers.

We hope to have the new company registered and established over the next few months and we already have the inaugural board of directors identified. There will be a very different focus on SCI going forward.

There are some significant challenges that we as an organisation will face in the future. The issue of grandparenting needs to be addressed by the Social Care Registration Board. We also have to safeguard the ‘Social Care Worker’ title. People are working as social care workers under different title, such as night sitters, project workers or outreach workers. Some older contracts are still childcare workers and not Social Care Workers.

It’s important that the Social Care Registration Board protects the public by protecting the title - if you are performing the duties of a Social Care Worker, then you are a Social Care Worker and therefore you must register. This would be similar to nurses not being able to work as nurses unless they are registered with An Bord Altranais

CORU is alro responsible for handling complaints in relation to Fitness to Practice. Any member of the public can make a complaint about a social care professional. SCI would like to be able to provide its members with professional indemnity insurance for fitness to practice. As evidenced in the UK, fitness to practice cases have been appealed to the high court. We are eager to work with other disciplines bound by the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (the Act) to provide fitness to practice cover. Social Care is the largest profession covered within the Act, with approximately 15,000 practitioners working in the sector.

I started working in the sector fifteen years ago. When I first started, there was a considerable amount of personal autonomy offered to different individuals and companies. Since then, there have been a number of developments to professionalise the sector. The single biggest change in my opinion is the significantly higher level of qualified staff. My expectation that a social care worker would have a minimum qualification of a degree in applied social studies. I’m also concerned that we have too many courses churning too many graduates for not enough jobs.

Through involvement with the Registration & Inspection Services (R&I) for 15 years, the quality of service delivery has improved significantly, through the high quality of reporting, child protection procedures, recruitment selection, appropriately qualified staff, stronger focuses on achieving positive outcomes for young people and the professional development of staff. Supervision is a requirement now and not a privilege. These types of developments are critical in achieving positive outcomes for young people.

Within mainstream residential care, the development of the National Placement Team has centralised referrals and streamlined systems, allowing for appropriate placements and speedier response times. The above changes all contribute to a very different sector than the one we had fifteen years ago.

The work we do is very emotional and the best work is done when is are emotionally present. It is very difficult to measure the impact on staff working with emotionally vulnerable young people. There are some invaluable tools that can assist managers in dealing with the potentially high levels of stress. Professional Supervision is critical: It allows for professional reflection and gives staff an opportunity to professionally debrief. Group supervision is also a very useful tool. A quick, inter-disciplinary response to the emerging needs of the client is critical for staff to continue delivering high levels of care to the young people involved. Efforts like the Social Care Games, which the IASCM will run again in September, will also provide an excellent outlet for staff to relax and interact with practitioners from other organisations.

Before I finish, I would like to take this opportunity to state that the next Social Care Ireland annual conference will take place in Dublin during the second week of April 2015. I have no doubt that this conference will be a success and I look forward to the event.

‘Child agency facing a crisis a year’


The Government has been warned that it faces “a crisis a year” unless it starts ploughing additional funds into the cash-strapped Child and Family Agency, Tusla.


The warning came after it emerged that a review of child protection services found that, as of the end of last February, there were 27,337 open cases, 5,000 of which had not yet been allocated a social worker.


The review also suggested 44% of social workers reported an unmanageable caseload burden, and that some children were waiting years to be allocated a social worker.


The National Review of Cases Awaiting Allocation, seen by RTÉ’s This Week programme, also claimed there was a shortage of resources, and problems with how cases were assessed.

It follows a number of critical reports conducted by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) and earlier calls for Tusla to be given more money to conduct its work.


Last night, Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said Tusla “doesn’t have a brass farthing” for preventative work and that, if the Government wanted to avoid the possibility of future tribunals or inquiries on tragedies involving children known to the care services, it needed to make a greater investment in services.


Referring to the fact that Tusla required enhanced funding last year and that its allocation was much lower than what it had asked for in its initial business case, Mr Finlay said: “We all know it was set up with an inadequate budget from day one.


“If they are not put on a proper funding base you are going to have a crisis a year.”


Mr Finlay suggested Tusla was still as many as 300 social workers short of the required staffing level and that the agency had “done its damnedest” to shore up its finances, including cutting funding in numerous areas, including to Barnardos.


He said the agency might now be “at the end of its tether” and, with the October budget looming, was in need of more resources. He said the guardian ad litem system, in which the court appoints a legal guardian in legal proceedings, needed to be thoroughly overhauled so that Tusla did not need to meet spiralling legal costs.


A spokesman for Minister for Children James Reilly said the minister was aware of the difficulties covered by the report.


“It was the minister who, earlier this year, requested that Tusla would prepare the report with a close analysis of the needs related to social workers,” he said. “The report was submitted to the department on July 15.


“Minister Reilly met Tusla to discuss the report on July 16. Gordon Jeyes [Tusla CEO], the chairperson of Tusla Norah Gibbons, and senior officials attended the meeting.


“Tusla is now preparing a formal business case on the issue and the need for extra social workers. That business case will then be entered into the estimates process for 2016, which is now under way.”


Mr Jeyes, who last week told an Oireachtas committee Tusla needed funding of €25m to “keep pace”, said Tusla’s audit showed a “clear capacity gap”: “We have seen in the past what happens if we do not invest sufficiently in Ireland’s most vulnerable children.


“There can be no going back. We have started moving in the right direction. Hiqa and everyone else recognises that progress. It has been modest. We can speed it up, but there must be investment.”

Drug centre sees 31% rise in demand for services

One of the country’s longest-running specialist drug centres witnessed a 31% jump in demand for services last year.
Coolmine Therapeutic Community supported 1,250 people during 2014, with women accounting for two-thirds of admissions.
In its 2014 annual report, the agency said there was an increase in the numbers of people with heroin as their primary problem drug.
The publication of the report comes as official figures show almost 9,900 people nationwide are on methadone.
The has also been a 16% cut in government funding since 2009, including an almost €20m fall in HSE funding for addiction services.
Coolmine, which was set up in 1973, is based in Blanchardstown, west Dublin, but most of its residential clients are from outside Dublin.
The report shows that almost seven in 10 women and half of men in residential therapy, as well as four out of 10 men on the day programme, cite heroin as their main drug of addiction.
It said that at any one time, there were 34 clients taking part in the five-month residential treatment programme at Coolmine Lodge, the male residential service. This represented a 33% increase in admissions compared to the previous year.
Occupancy also increased from 12 females to 24 at any one time in Coolmine Ashleigh House and the community and day services worked with 139 individuals during the year, up 11% on 2013.
“Coolmine’s longitudinal outcomes study found that, two years after therapy, 71% of clients were illicit drug-free; 97% did not engage in crime and 25% were engaged in employment,” said chairman Alan Connolly.
Pauline McKeown, chief executive at Coolmine, said that during the year, 64% of female clients admitted to Coolmine Ashleigh House and 50% of males in Coolmine Lodge were from outside Dublin.
She said Coolmine’s housing and resettlement service supported over 250 clients to access accommodation in that year.
“32 mothers and 21 children were homeless or inadequately housed after completing their residential programme in 2014,” said Ms McKeown.
She said there were 18 mother and child admissions and four expectant mums at Coolmine Ashleigh House and that funding had been secured to increase numbers to 24.
“In addition, the crèche facilities will be renovated to allow Coolmine to work with more children impacted by parental substance misuse on a full-time residential basis. We have also strengthened our commitment to evidence-based treatments through the Parenting under Pressure Programme for high-risk families.”

It's also a crime for a woman to hit a man


'Domestic abuse. There's no shame in being a male victim. Break your silence." So ran the powerful message on the back of the bus ahead of me in Dublin traffic last week. The campaign is being run by Amen to highlight the problem of men who are victims of domestic abuse and is a first for this country.

Amen is a Navan-based organisation offering support to men who are victims of domestic violence. The present campaign is timely, since up to 2,000 men reported around 8,000 incidents, according to its 2013 report. The domestic abuse of men is crying out for action as it is one of the unspoken problems of our decade in contrast to the abuse of women, which has dominated the national discussion on domestic violence.

A few years ago, there was an influential advertisement with the caption: "It's a crime to beat a woman." It could have added "or a man". Therein was the implication that men did not experience such abuse, that it they did it was unimportant or that they were able to deal with it.

What has become clear from research and from the testimonies of male victims is that men do not disclose the abuse to anybody and that only one-in-20 reports it to the gardai.

A study, now 10 years old, carried out jointly by the National Crime Council and the ESRI reports that one man in 25 has experienced severe physical abuse, one in 90 has experienced sexual abuse in a domestic relationship and one in 37 has experienced severe emotional abuse.

These figures are much lower than current figures from the UK and published recently in the May 2015 issue of BMJ Open. The lead author, Professor Marianne Hester, carried out the study in 16 general practices in the South West of England. From a total sample of over 1,300 men attending the GPs, 162 were victims of domestic violence and a further 117 were both perpetrators and victims.

Considering those who were victims only, the figure is much higher than the reported data from Ireland. This may be because they were a sample attending doctors rather than selected at random from the general population. Examining the type of behaviour, almost 60pc of the UK sample reported feeling frightened of their partner, almost 50pc were physically hurt and 10pc were forced to have sex.

In total, 28pc reported some type of violence/abuse in the previous year and for most, these behaviours had a negative effect on their lives including work, studies and relationship with their children. Symptoms of depression and anxiety were reported by over 65pc. Unlike other studies, particularly from the US, there was no association with alcohol misuse.

It is widely acknowledged that men feel shame that they cannot protect themselves and believe that things will get worse if they try to do anything about the abuse. Many report that false allegations have been made against them and fear losing access to their children. These victims do not conform to the "macho" stereotype and believe they will be seen as weak.

Some may be adverse to reporting violence in the belief that gardai will not treat it seriously or that they will regard him as the aggressors who is simply getting his comeuppance.

A report by Amen on domestic abuse among a sample of 40 men conducted in Co Monaghan in 2000 found that men chose not to leave home because they feared for the safety of their children if they did.

They also reported that there was nowhere for them to go apart from using the generic services for the homeless. There were no dedicated hostels for male victims of domestic abuse and their children similar to those provided by Women's Aid.

Internationally, it is well recognised that male victims may come from educational groups, and in the Monaghan study, 22.5pc had third-level education, 62.5pc secondary and 15pc primary. Data from the US shows that while most domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women (1.2 million in 2011/12), the equivalent figure for men as victims was 800,000.

According to a criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz writing in a 1994 paper from the University of Iowa, 40pc of spousal murders are perpetrated by women. Other US studies have suggested that men and women are victims of intimate partner violence in equal numbers.

I have dealt professionally with men who were the victims of domestic violence and while the numbers are less than for female victims, the trauma, physical and emotional, is just as real. Whether or not domestic violence is more common among women than men is surely not relevant.

It is not a women's issue and it is not a men's issue. It's a human problem that must be taken seriously since lives are at stake.

Fall in cases of kids taken into care


The number of incidents of children being removed from the care of their parents or guardians by gardaí over fears for their safety recorded a sharp decrease last year.


However, there was a significant increase in cases across the three Garda divisions in Cork, notably in Cork North where incidents more than doubled.


Figures show there was a 23% reduction in the number of cases where children were taken into protective care by the State during 2014.


The figures which are contained in the latest annual report of An Garda Síochána show 587 incidents involving children being removed from their home by gardaí were recorded last year. The total in 2013 was 758.

Gardaí revealed that 549 individual children were identified in respect of the 587 incidents.


Under Section 12 of the Child Care Act, gardaí can remove a child from the care of their parent or guardian if they believe there is an immediate danger to the child.


The child is handed over as soon as possible to the care of Tusla – the Child and Family Agency – which makes an independent decision as to whether to return the child to their parent or guardian or to apply to the Courts for an Emergency Care Order.


The biggest reduction in incidents of children being taken into care was in Dublin where the number of incidents declined by 54% — down 122 to 105 cases last year.


There was also a 37% drop in the number of such incidents in the Garda western region which covers Galway, Clare, Mayo, Longford and Roscommon.


However, the Garda southern region experienced the only increase in incidents of children being removed from their home last year – up 17% to 155 cases.


A total of 109 incidents were recorded across Cork city and county last year compared to 61 cases in 2013.


The annual report also highlights how there was a 9% reduction in the number of breath tests on motorists last year with a related 1% decrease in the number of checkpoints.


However, gardaí point out that detections of “life saver” offences such as speeding, safety belts and holding a mobile phone while driving increased between 4% and 13%.


Other highlights of Garda activity identified in the 2014 annual report were: 2,369 people charged under anti-burglary Operation Fiacla, €698m worth of controlled drugs seized with 60 related arrests, 226,715 fixed charge notices issued for speeding, 621 organised crime gangs targeted, 2,315 fingerprint hits from cases handled by Fingerprint Section, 9,179 missing person cases investigated.

New laws on sexual grooming of children before the Dáil


Anyone convicted of grooming a child for sexual exploitation could soon be facing up to 14 years in jail.


A new bill comes before the Dáil today which would add the explicit offence to our statutes.


If passed by both houses of the Oireachtas, the crime would include making contact with a youngster online to encourage sexual activity.


"It is a small piece of legislation, but it will send out a message that there is no hiding place from the law for those who seek to exploit our children," said Ellen O'Malley Dunlop CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.


"The creation of the offence of child grooming will ensure that abusers do not have the opportunity to use legal confusion to escape justice."


The legislation will cover soliciting, requesting, counselling, encouraging, procuring, or enticing a child under the age of 17 to do any act with a view to gaining the trust of that child for the purpose of sexual exploitation.


On conviction, such acts would carry a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

Drugs supply ‘stops inmates kicking the habit’


The supply of drugs into prisons “seriously undermines” the ability of inmates to kick the habit, the country’s largest voluntary drug and homeless organisation has said.


Tony Geoghegan, director of Merchants Quay Ireland, backed the Irish Prison Service’s creation of a confidential helpline to combat the smuggling of drugs.


Speaking at the launch of the service, Mr Geoghegan said many inmates had drug problems and that prison provided treatment opportunities for them.


“Ambivalence is at the core of addiction,” he said. “They want to be drug free, but old habits die hard. The lure of drugs is very strong. There is no doubt that the availability of drugs within prisons seriously undermines people’s efforts to lead a better life and leave drugs behind.”


He said MQI provided 11,000 drug counselling sessions to 2,888 individuals in 2014 — an increase of 13%.


“The Irish Prison Service has a well-developed suite of drug services. This helpline is a very important initiative and my hope is it will limit availability.”


IPS director general Michael Donnellan said: “Drugs kill in prison, they cause devastation within the prison environment. We have at least two to three drug overdoses a year.”


He said it had a “devastating” effect on parents, partners, and children. He said 70% of the people admitted to prison had a drug addiction problem.


“Drugs in prison cannot be tolerated. There’s a myth out there that drugs keep things calm. It is the driver of mental ill health, it drives crime and criminality and drives violence.”


IPS figures show there were 677 recorded assaults in 2013, compared to 708 in 2014.


Some of the weapons were put on display at yesterday’s launch, including a “shiv” blade used to slash inmates. “The most barbaric weapon is a double razor blade,” said chief officer Ben Buckley. He explained that a cut with this leaves a permanent scar.


He said much of the violence was linked to the drugs trade and the intimidation placed on prisoners and their families to smuggle drugs in.


“Desperate people are taking desperate measures to get drugs into prison.”


Gangs target vulnerable inmates, such as those going to prison for the first time, and order them to bring in drugs: “If they don’t do it there will pay a price, a physical price unfortunately.”


Confidential Helpline 1800 855 717

The Daffodil Foundation radio interview


Our Managing Director Pat Hayes was speaking on KCLR 96FM ahead of the launch of The Daffodil Foundation on Friday, a new charity whose mission is "supporting and promoting the wellbeing of young people in Ireland".

To listen to the interview, click the link below and skip forward to 6.45.

Pupils aged just seven too obese to fit into their uniforms


Children as young as seven are having to wear 'adult' size school uniforms because they are overweight.

As a result, parents are left with higher bills because the clothes no longer qualify for zero-rate VAT.

Department of Finance rules allowing for a VAT exemption on children's clothing and shoes also extend to school uniforms.

The zero rate applies to clothing up to a size that the Revenue Commissioner deems would be no bigger than a 10-year-old of average build would wear. This is set at sizes up to and including a 32-inch chest or a 26-inch waist.

But school uniform manufacturers and suppliers say the guidelines are out of step with the height and weight of modern children.

Irish School Wear Association (ISWA) spokesperson Karen Grant said they were "aware of a plethora of cases where children as young as seven require uniforms of a size too big to qualify for VAT".

Teenage girl with toilet phobia dies from heart attack after going eight weeks without using loo


A teenager died from a heart attack caused by constipation - after going eight weeks without a bowel movement, an inquest heard.

Emily Titterington, 16, had a phobia of using the loo and would frequently withhold her stools for up to two months.

Eventually her bowel grew so large it compressed her chest cavity and caused the displacement of other organs.

The inquest heard how her life could have been saved with appropriate treatment but she had refused to be medically examined.

Home Office pathologist Dr Amanda Jeffery said her symptoms were in keeping with a condition known as "stool withholding", which is more frequent in children.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Emily had a "massive extension of the large bowel".

Asked by Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon to describe the severity of the condition, Dr Jeffery said: "It was like nothing I've ever seen before - it was dramatic."

The inquest in Truro, Cornwall, heard how Emily, who had mild autism, suffered with bowel problems for most of her life but doctors had been unable to pinpoint the cause.

Her GP Dr Alistair James said that, in the period leading up to her death, Emily's mother Geraldine, 59, had battled in vain to persuade her to be medically examined.

Dr James told the coroner that he had prescribed laxatives but had not examined Emily's abdomen.

"Had I done so, we would be having a different conversation," he said. "Her death could have been avoided with the right treatment at the right point."

Emily collapsed at her home in St Austell on February 8, 2013. Paramedics desperately tried to revive her but she was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Paramedic Lee Taylor attended the family's home twice on the night of her death.

On the first occasion he described Emily as "looking pale" and said she had complained of pain between her shoulder blades.

However, she refused to go to hospital and had been reluctant to be examined.

He said she wore a "loose nightie" and he did not notice any abdominal swelling.

Mr Taylor and his colleague, student paramedic Lisa Marie Edwards, were called back just after 4am.

He said: "We were allocated to an emergency at the house we'd just left.

"When we arrived her father James was outside shouting at us to help, saying something had gone badly wrong."

Inside they found Emily's mother leaning over her daughter, who was lying in the doorway of the bathroom.

Mr Taylor said: "As she moved away I could see that her abdomen was grossly extended.

"Her lower ribs had been pushed out further than her pubic bone - I was shocked."

Emily's sister Hannah Herbert, 29, last saw her four weeks prior to her death.

Her mother told her Emily had not been to the toilet for "six to eight weeks" and this was "routine", the inquest heard.

Hannah told the inquest she did not feel that Emily was in a "healthy, safe environment" and had previously contacted social services with her concerns.

But GP Dr James said he found "no evidence" of safeguarding issues.

In a statement read out to the court, Emily's brother-in-law, Brian Herbert, said the family had tried a number of different remedies for her bowel condition.

They included homeopathic pills, and a technique known as Body Talk, which involved so-called "distance healing".

The three-day inquest is expected to conclude later today.

Headshop drugs ban curbs problem usage


A law criminalising the possession or sale of headshop drugs appears to have had the desired effect of reducing usage among young people who had been using in a problematic way, according to a study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin.


The study, So Prohibition Can Work?, looked specifically at the use of “new psychoactive substances” (NPS)/headshop drugs by adolescents attending the Youth Drug and Alcohol outpatient service in Dublin, comparing the six months immediately prior to the ban in May 2010 to the same six-month period the following year.


The average age of the groups studied was 17 and predominantly male.


Researchers found that the percentage of problematic NPS users dropped from 34% in the first group to 0% in the second group. The percentage who had occasionally used any headshop drug in the previous three months also dropped dramatically from 82% in the pre-ban group to 28% in the post-ban group.


The study’s authors concluded that criminalising the sale of once-legal highs, and the closure of 93% of headshops, had “substantially reduced” the use of NPS’s among these people in the year after the legislative changes were introduced.


The study, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, also showed that those who continued to use headshop drugs in the post-ban era did so in a lower-risk manner and that the legislative ban did not result in increased use of other substances such as cocaine and amphetamines by those attending treatment.


Lead researcher Dr Bobby Smyth, clinical senior lecturer in public health and primary care at Trinity, said the findings had confounded concerns raised by some academics prior to the legislative changes that banning headshop drugs and closing headshops would drive users into other criminal supply networks, and that use would continue unabated.


Their study instead found that the ban “did indeed coincide with a fall in NPS use among this high-risk group of teenagers”.


Other factors which may have contributed to the fall in use of headshop drugs, according to Dr Smyth, included substantial negative publicity regarding adverse effects of NPS’s.


At the time of the introduction of the ban in Ireland in May 2010, there were 102 headshops, equating to one shop per 45,000 people. By September 2010, there were only 10-12 headshops.


NPS’s include powdered stimulant drugs which typically are snorted, smoked synthetic canabinoids, and pills with amphetamine-type effect.

My experience of psychiatric care


Georgina shares her story to help bring down some of the stigma around psychiatric care.

It can be a very scary thing going in to a psychiatric hospital when you don't know what to expect.

It is likely your mind will think up the worst possible scenarios and bring up memories of all the horror stories you have ever heard and movies you have ever seen, the majority of which have it all wrong and completely warped. Not to mention the added pressure of stigma. While all hospitals vary and have their own way of doing things, having been in two, one private, the other public, I can say that they work very much the same.

On first arrival to the private hospital, I was met by the admissions office where I had to fill out a few forms (just a formality; stating my address, contact details of next of kin, signing insurance forms etc.) and from there, after a little wait, although considering how emotional and scared I was it felt like hours, I was met by a registrar nurse ­ - a registrar is a psychiatrist in training who works alongside your assigned doctor.

There was quite a long interview with this registrar detailing all my past medical history and giving me the opportunity to ask any questions regarding my stay and planned course of treatment. This interview process is not one you have to do alone. I was so glad to have my mom there as the tears made it quite difficult to talk and the anxiety hindered my ability to think straight. Having someone who knew me almost as well as I knew myself meant she could answer when I couldn't.

Plus, it was nice to have a hand to hold. After a brief physical exam (nothing invasive) the registrar escorted my parents and I to the ward. Psychiatric hospitals tend to be busy and high­in­demand meaning beds are not always available on the particular ward you have been assigned to for the duration of your stay and so sometimes you will have no choice but to bunk in another ward until one comes free. In my case, the ward I was supposed to be on had no bed available. I spent my first night in another before being transferred the next morning.

All patients are given a bed in a bay area for the first few nights. This is basically a room with a number of beds located right across from the nurses’ station. It gives the ward nurses a chance to get to know you and see that you settle in alright. After a few nights there, you get assigned your own room or perhaps a twin room.

Also, all wards are segregated meaning males and females do not get assigned the same room. There is generally a common area with chairs and a telly where you can hang out and chat with other patients (unless your ward is female only, this area will not be segregated).

The nurses on duty will carry out a ward round every hour where they will check on every patient. In my experience, until you have met with your doctor you would be requested to stay on the ward. However, if you are not confined to the ward and have freedom to move around the hospital, there will probably be a book at the nurses’ station where you will be required to check in and out as you go. There can be a wide range of activities throughout the day like art, mindfulness and yoga. Some hospitals even have a music room where you can play the piano or bang on the drums.

If you are on medications, you will need to hand them up on arrival and the nurses will store them in the meds room. Generally meds are dispensed from this same room at meal times and then again right before people start heading for bed. Unlike the public hospital I stayed in where all patients ate meals in the one hall, in the private hospital each ward had its own canteen and meal times. A set menu would be pinned up in the morning and if nothing grabbed your fancy, you could go to the main hospital canteen and buy something from the buffet.

If you are a picky eater, like me, and only eat chicken for example, be sure to inform the nurses. They can have a member of the catering team talk to you about your options. Depending on your history, your doctor may also assign you a nutritionist. At meal times, the nurses tend to sit in a corner and take attendance. Don't fret like I did and think that they are only watching you and you alone. They're really not.

Then of course the treatment side of things comes into the picture. Every patient is assigned a doctor and once a week you get to meet this doctor on his/her rounds. It can be a long day, as many other patients will also be waiting to see him/her. You will always have the option to bring a family member to this meeting. If you have a problem any of the other days you can go to the ward nurses, your key nurse if you have been assigned one or ask to see one of the registrars.

There are many different treatment programmes available to patients at psychiatric hospitals, none of which I am educated enough on to recommend or advise. But on meeting with your doctor you will both agree on what the best course of action is. If you are a voluntary patient, as most are, meaning you admitted yourself to the hospital, you can essentially choose to discharge yourself whenever you want providing your doctor does not see it as a danger for yourself or others.

Everyone’s experience in a psychiatric hospital is different and although it can be difficult, do try and remember that no two patients are the same. Just because another person has been in hospital 12 weeks, does not mean you will and while one person may have a dislike to one particular nurse/doctor, don't be swayed. Decide for yourself based on your own experience. I am certainly not going to lie, going to a psychiatric hospital is very daunting but hopefully having read this, you might feel a little more at ease.

Some useful terms to know:

PRN: medication as needed. For example, if I was feeling more anxious than normal, I could ask the nurse for an extra dose of anxiety meds.

MDT: Multidisciplinary Team. This team, headed by your doctor can be made up of registrars, social workers, nutritionists, psychologists, occupational therapists etc. They all work with you to ensure the best possible treatment.

OT: Occupational Therapist. They help you to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills while also trying to identify and eliminate environmental barriers in the way of you having independence and the ability to participate in daily activities.

Registrar: A doctor in training to be a specialist. They work alongside your assigned psychiatrist.

Special: A term used to describe someone who is under 24/7 supervision. Typically someone is a current danger to themselves and/or those around them.

Rounds: 1) ward nurses checking in with patients on a regular basis, generally hourly. 2) Psychiatrist meeting with his/her patients once/twice weekly along with MDT to check on progress, note any concerns and mark out the next step forward.

Bay area: a semi-private room close to the nurses station.

Warning as young man dies from online 'diet pills'


An unknown number of unsuspecting dieters are thought to have bought a deadly 'fat-burner' tablet that has killed a young Irish man.

The yellow-coloured 'miracle diet pills', which come in a white tube with the label DNP 200 and contain Dinitrophenol, led to the death of the man last month.

Another 93 of these pills were seized by gardaí and officials of the medicines watchdog the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) recently.

However, the full extent of the availability of these weight-loss tablets, which are purchased online, is unknown.

HPRA chief Pat O'Mahony warned consumers that products containing Dinitrophenol are not fit for human consumption and have the potential to cause serious harm.

He repeated that people should not buy slimming products which may be illegally available online.

Some of these products have dangerous chemicals which are often undeclared on the pack.

Anyone who has taken these pills and are suffering any ill effects should contact their doctor immediately.

Warning signs include hot dry skin, excessive thirst, severe sweating, an abnormally fast heartbeat and rapid breathing.

Mr O'Mahony said: "Any remaining quantity should not be taken and can be collected by the HPRA for disposal.

"The information we have at this time indicates that this young man consumed DNP and our thoughts are with his family.

"These investigations are on-going. No amount of these products is safe to take.

"Bogus websites can be very sophisticated and appear to be legitimate.

"However, in reality they can be supplying unsafe and harmful products."

Mr O'Mahony added: "Laboratory analysis of products detained in the past has shown that medicines being sold through illicit websites will often contain too little or too much of the active ingredient or may contain undeclared and harmful substances."

Another tragic death linked to the diet pills was reported in the UK in April, sparking a major alert.

It recently emerged that hauls of illegally imported steroids are making their way on to the market here and are being sold in gyms, where people are involved in body building.

Interpol have also issued a global alert over the threat posed by the so-called diet pills after they claimed the life of a British woman.

The world police agency raised the alarm with forces in 190 countries as the toxic pesticide was linked to the death of Eloise Parry, of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, while a Frenchman was fighting for his life after taking the drug.

Eloise Parry, 21, died at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in April after taking tablets she bought online.

Police believe they included a quantity of DNP.

A study last year warned the drug, which is also sometimes used as a bodybuilding aid, could be linked to five more deaths in the UK between 2007 and 2013.

In an Orange Notice issued by Interpol, at the request of French health authorities, the agency declared an "imminent threat'' to consumers from DNP, which has also been used in explosives.

Online distributors have even tried to mask its supply from customs and police officers by labelling it as the yellow spice turmeric because it looks similar.

DPP rules out charges over foster care abuse allegations


No one is to face charges following a Garda inquiry into allegations of abuse in a foster home in the south east.

The Director of Public Prosecutions made the decision following a Garda investigation into the claims, which relate to up to 40 children and span two decades.

Officers informed the head of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the DPP's direction in recent days.

PAC chairman John McGuinness had made a statement to gardaí after coming into possession of information related to the case.

The completion of the investigation should pave the way for two HSE-commissioned reports related to the allegations to be published.

However, Mr McGuinness expressed concerns about the scope of the Garda investigation, saying he was not satisfied that it dealt with allegations the abuse had been covered up by health service staff.

Mr McGuinness said he had been informed that it focused on the alleged perpetrators of the abuse, rather than on failings by health service staff to intervene when they were made aware of abuse allegations.

PAC vice chairman John Deasy has previously alleged, under privilege, that "there was a clique in the HSE for a number of years which shoved all of this under the rug".

The former health board was alerted to allegations of sexual abuse at the foster home in the mid-1990s.

But a vulnerable girl was allowed to remain there for a further 13 years. "The HSE knew about it and have known about it for years and nobody is going to be penalised for that. This situation is unreal," said Mr McGuinness.

"No one has been fired or sanctioned. No one has even been told off."

Speaking at the launch of a PAC report on HSE procurement, Mr McGuinness said gardaí only interviewed the parents and guardians of a number of children who had been in foster care placements.

Specialist expertise was not sought to interview the children.

The Garda and HSE-commissioned investigations were sparked after two staff at a voluntary organisation made protected disclosures in 2009 and 2010.

PAC has raised concerns about the use of former health service staff to conduct investigations and the lack of tendering involved.

One of the key recommendations of its procurement report is that the HSE no longer hires former staff to carry out sensitive investigations into failings in the health service.

The publication of the report comes just days after Health Minister Leo Varadkar announced he would be appointing a senior counsel to examine the procurement process and the approach taken in conducting the two reviews.

IASCM Seminar – Mindfulness


Mindful Leadership is increasingly being recognised as a key resource for Managers and Team Leaders within the challenging, and often stressful environment of the Social Care setting.


Dee Hennessy, Mindful Facilitator, will facilitate a Presentation for the IASCM on Friday, 10th July 2015, at Louis Fitzgerald Hotel from 9.30am-1pm (Registration takes place at 9am).


This introductory session on Mindful Leadership for Social Care Managers will provide participants with:

– An understanding of Mindful Leadership as a resource

– A framework for the practical application of Mindful Leadership within the Social Care context.


This presentation is free for IASCM Members and €25 for Non-members (inclusive of IASCM Membership Fee).

Please book your tickets at



IASCM Executive

Children's groups call on all parties to agree new intervention plan


Political parties are being called on the make the care of children, and early intervention programmes, a priority for the next government.


An event is taking place in Dublin this afternoon around the issue, with representatives from all political parties taking part.


The "Hands up for Children" campaign, consisting of 42 groups working in the children's and social sectors, wants state funding for the ABC early intervention programme to be doubled.


It provides speech and language therapy, literacy, parenting skills and social supports to communities most in need.


"We have come to understand … that the earlier you intervene when there's a diffiulcty, the better the outcome," said Marian Quinn, Chair of the Prevention and Early Intervention Network.


"We are in the run-up to a general election, and we wantt to ensure that outcomes for children are centre-stage in the next programme for government."


She said services were far too often dictated by a crisis rather then prevention at an early stage, and that is a key area the group wants to address.

HSE will find GP for children who are rejected by three doctors


Parents who make three unsuccessful attempts to have a GP sign up their child for free visits will be assigned a doctor by the HSE, it emerged yesterday.

The HSE was responding to questions on how parents of children under-six in some blackspot areas - where there is poor take-up of the scheme - will cope.

New figures show there are 58,000 fewer people now covered by a full medical card compared to a year ago.

The fall comes amid ongoing resistance by many doctors to the Government scheme to give free GP visits to all under six year olds regardless of their parents income.

Several doctors believe it would be fairer to relax the means test for a medical card for low-income people. The HSE insisted yesterday that a significant factor in the fall in medical cards has been the rise in the numbers of people who had them that got jobs.

The number of GPs signing up nationally to the free visits for under-sixes scheme rose to 1,836 yesterday - 76pc of eligible doctors. But it is now looking increasingly likely that the poor take-up by GPs in south Tipperary and west Cork and Dublin south east will affect thousands of under-six year olds.

Other areas with lower coverage include Louth and Kildare as well as west Wicklow.

The HSE said yesterday that 46,500 of the 270,000 eligible children have been registered for the scheme to begin in the middle of next week.

A spokeswoman said the HSE will assign a GP to provide services to children under six in circumstances where a parent or guardian has been unsuccessful in getting three GPs to accept their child or children on to the a doctor's panel.

However, this will still mean that parents could face a considerable journey if they want their child to be seen for free.

Doctors in south Tipperary who are not to participate said they will charge a private fee and ask the parent to invoice the HSE.

Parents in Donegal, Galway, Laois and Offaly, north west Dublin, Sligo/Leitrim and Wexford will have the highest choice of GPs due to the numbers signing up.

Several GPs have taken Health Minister Leo Varadkar to task on Twitter, accusing him of a divide and conquer strategy to coerce GPs into signing.

Mr Varadkar replied that the GPs should "get on the train" and help in. He told the medics that GPs taking on the Government of the day is a "battle they can never win."

They needed to "cop on", said the minister, who worked as a GP until recent years.

Many GPs, however, remain convinced that the extra workload will affect their ability to deliver a same-day service to more of their older and sicker patients and will create waiting lists

Under the scheme, GPs will get an annual increased €125 capitation fee for each child under six regardless of how often they visit. This applies to new children they take on as well as capitation for each child under 6 existing and new patients to increase to €125. This is an 82pc increase in capitation. The current capitation fee is €68.65.

There are also top-up payments for children who have asthma. From September, GPs will start providing more care to adult patients with diabetes, offering them two clinical consultations which will include blood tests and a preventative lifestyle review.

Doctors who operate out-of-hours co-ops said children who need to see a GP during that time will not be charged even if the doctor has not signed up to the new scheme.

Judge allows child in care to attend sexual assault unit


Child ran away from home and disclosed she was sexually abused by friend of her mother

A judge at the Dublin District Family Court has dispensed with the need for parental approval to have a child in care assessed at a sexual assault unit.

The primary-schoolgoing child was taken into care earlier this year having run away from home after allegedly being beaten by her mother. She later disclosed to a social worker she had been sexually abused by a friend of her mother’s at one of her mother’s parties, the court was told.

The Child and Family Agency sought to extend an interim care order for the girl and orders dispensing with the need for parental approval for a passport and for the medical assessment.

Foster placement

The social worker told Judge Brendan Toale the girl was now in a foster placement and was very happy there. She was also settled in school and her principal had described her as “a wonderful child”.

She said she wrote to the mother for permission to bring the child to the sexual assault unit, but the mother did not respond or answer phone calls. When she was asked for her daughter’s passport, so the child could go on summer holiday with her foster carer, the mother asked for €75, the social worker said. When the money was refused, she would not give the passport and later said she had lost it.

The child’s court-appointed guardian described the girl as “content and robust” and said she was “unlike other children of her age” who had been through similar experiences. The child was clear on what she wanted the guardian to tell the judge: that she didn’t want to go home or see her mother.


The guardian said she believed that was based on her fear of a backlash from her mother for running away.

“Her fears are grounded and right,” the guardian said.

“Mum is extremely compulsive and has an inability to regulate her emotions. It is highly likely she would explode and blame [the child].”

She said the girl had expressed a wish to see her younger brother whom she had “effectively cared for” while she was at home. She was worried he might now be exposed to the violence she allegedly experienced. The mother was not present in court or legally represented.

Judge Toale said he was satisfied the mother was aware of the hearing and the father had been served with court documents.

He extended the interim care order for the girl for 28 days and made an order allowing the agency apply for a passport for the child. He also said it was appropriate the child be seen at the sexual assault unit.

Separately, Judge Toale refused to hear an application for a supervision order because the Legal Aid Board had not provided a solicitor for the child’s father. He said this was “a constant feature”. When parents have a case to make, it was not just in the interests of fair procedures, but in the interests of the children, that they make their case, the judge said.

He adjourned the case to allow the board to provide a solicitor on the next occasion.

Assisted Decision-Making Bill reaches committee stage


New legislation will replace Lunacy Regulation Act and end wards of court

A Bill to allow people with limited decision-making capacity to better manage their personal, property and financial affairs has progressed to committee stage.

The Dáil select committee on justice worked through more than 400 amendments to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 on Wednesday.

The legislation will replace the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and will mean adults with diminished mental capacity will no longer be wards of court; instead a decision-making assistant, a co-decision-maker or an attorney will be appointed based on the capacity of the person.

The proposed legislation has been welcomed by campaign groups and academics. Piers Gooding, research associate at the NUI Galway Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP), said the Bill will be relevant to virtually all Irish people.

But he added that the centre, which worked with the Department of Justice in formulating the legislation, also has concerns the Bill does not fully meet human rights standards.

He said the focus on “decision-making capacity” could place onerous demands on certain people and result in them being forced to see clinical professionals to prove they have mental capacity.

A coalition of campaign groups have also expressed concerns over powers granted to “informal decision-makers” who the CDLP said “can make a wide range of decisions about people who they believe to lack mental capacity without any oversight or scrutiny from the courts or other State bodies”.

But he added that overall the centre was “really pleased” and said the fact that Minister of State with responsibility for mental health Kathleen Lynch moved more than 400 amendments to the Bill at the committee meeting showed the Government was serious about the legislation.

Quarter of all calls to rape helpline from men


The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) has reported a 30pc increase in first-time callers to its 24 hour helpline, with men accounting for almost a quarter of those seeking help.

More than 12,000 contacts were made to the charity last year, with some 9,207 deemed genuine. Some 3,341 individual client appointments were completed in 2014, according to its annual report.

Four out of 10 people who needed a crisis appointment received emergency counselling for rape or a sexual assault within six months of the alleged offence. There was a 71pc increase in such "recent" appointments compared to 2013, DRCC said.

Half of its new clients who received face-to-face counselling also reported other forms of violence including physical and psychological abuse, harassment and intimidation as well stalking and threats and attempts to kill, DRCC said.

Elsewhere, more than 200 victims of rape and sexual assault were accompanied by trained volunteers to the Sexual Assault and Treatment Unit (SATU) in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who launched the report, has received broad support for proposed reform of sexual offences legislation published last year.

She is widely expected to shortly announce a new Government commitment to undertake research into the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland.

Any new research would follow on from the landmark 2002 'Sexual Assault and Violence Report in Ireland' (SAVI).

Anne Marie Gill, DRCC Chairperson, said that a second SAVI could provide comparative, rigorous research to identify whether there has been change for "better or worse".

The Government is set to transpose into Irish law a new EU Directive on Victim's Rights.

Barnardos has a plan to make education free for primary school children


The children’s charity estimates that €103 million would eliminate costs for all parents.

Barnardos children’s charity has estimated that it would cost €103 million to give every child in Ireland a totally free primary education.

While there is currently no direct charge for children to attend primary school in Ireland, there are a number of additional costs for school books, transportation, stationary and voluntary contributions.

The charity has highlighted the fact that there are no national guidelines for how much these additional costs should be and they vary depending on the school a child attends.

These additional costs are said to most impact on the children of lower-income parents.


How much is needed?

“Every year we hear from parents forced to make impossible choices in order to fund their child’s education,” said June Tinsley, head of advocacy with Barnardos.

The charity is calling for around €103.2 million in this year’s Budget and around €126.9 million to be committed within three years to fund secondary education.

Speaking about the projection by the charity, its CEO, Fergus Finlay, said, “The impact of an inclusive, supportive education system reaches far beyond school gates.”

It means all children, regardless of their background, are given the same opportunity to learn and thrive.


How does the sum break down?

The charity has costed their proposals by looking at the different areas that parents are currently required to make payments to. They estimate that the sum of €103.2 million would be coming out of Budget 2016 of around €1.2 billion.

The biggest hit to the Exchequer would be the elimination of voluntary contributions, at a cost of €42 million.

The cost of school books would be around €20 million, free classroom resources would be around €19.5 million, and restoring the capitation grant level would cost around €16.7 million.

One case of sexting is investigated every day by child protection officers


Children and young people can end up vulnerable to exploitation or blackmail after sexting.

The warning comes from the National Crime Agency which has revealed that child protection officers are investigating one case of sexting every day.

The officers have to step in to safeguard young people who end up at risk after sending nude or explicit images of themselves on social media or messaging services. It can leave the sender vulnerable to exploitation or blackmail, the NCA said.

On average, the NCA’s centre for tackling abuse, Ceop Command, receives one report a day of a child protection issue linked to sexting. It deals with cases involving boys and girls aged 13 or above. Reports are made by children, parents or teachers.

In some instances youngsters are targeted by strangers who attempt to blackmail them over images they have been tricked into taking.

Other cases involve recipients of private messages forwarding them to others or a user posting a picture of themselves on a website or social media with low privacy settings.

The NCA is today launching a campaign to give parents advice on how to respond if their child becomes involved in sexting. It aims to help parents deal with the problem and includes a number of short animations developed following a research project involving the University of Edinburgh.

Zoe Hilton, head of safeguarding at Ceop Command, said staff receive reports of “difficult and sometimes harmful” situations linked to sexting.

She said: “We are talking about cases where sexting has led to a child protection issue. Something that has started out as relatively innocent or normal for the young people involved has unfortunately turned into something that is quite nasty and needs intervention in order to safeguard and protect the child.”

Last year reports emerged of children being warned they could face prosecution in the criminal courts for sharing graphic pictures over the internet.

Hilton said there was no benefit in criminalising teenagers who take part in sexting.

She said: “I think we have to recognise that sexting is actually very normative behaviour for children and young people.

“These are kids growing up in a very image-saturated environment. They are copying what they see older young adults do.”

You can read more about the campaign on the CEOP’s ThinkUKnow website, which also includes a place to report such problems.

As more teenagers go to extreme measures to get thin, parents should be extra vigilant


Eating disorders are rising at an alarming rate in young people, with both girls and increasing numbers of boys going to extreme measures to become thin.

The number of teenagers who have been admitted to hospital has doubled in the last three years in the UK.

In Ireland, there was a 30pc increase in calls to the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland helpline - called Bodywhys - last year.

A large portion of blame falls on the shoulders of the Internet and social media.

You only have to Google 'pro-ana' - the term for pro-anorexia sites - to see the scale of the problem.

When I searched for it on Google, 30,900,000 results came up.

One of the first websites I opened, chillingly told me to: "Make a list of 'bad' foods. Periodically, cross one off the list and pledge to never, ever eat it again. Eventually, there will be none left!"

If one click of a mouse can come up with over 30 million websites telling you how to lose masses of weight, with some urging you to become anorexic, it's no wonder young people are getting into trouble and starving themselves.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) in the UK believes that the images and apps available online are placing huge pressure on young people.

The RCP said it had seen an "unprecedented" rise in the number of eating disorder sufferers recently.

Spokeswoman Dr Carolyn Nahman said: "We're getting increasingly concerned about the pressure of social media."

She's right. With one click of a button, vulnerable and impressionable young people are able to access millions of images of 'perfect-looking' people, which places them under a lot of pressure.

Looking at images of airbrushed models and celebrities frolicking on a beach in teeny tiny bikinis with thighs the size of tooth-picks, can cause teenagers to develop low self-esteem.

And it's not just teenagers.

Most women staring at photos of slim, toned stunners will begin to feel bad about their own body shape.

It's the same for boys and men looking at pumped-up, six-pack wielding movie stars.

It certainly doesn't enhance their sense of self-worth either.

It is important, therefore, to urge young people to stop comparing themselves with these perfect images - most of which have been doctored and Photoshopped to look perfect.

Childline has said that it is now receiving increasing numbers of calls relating to children with eating disorders too.

The factors it cited as contributing to the increase it had experienced, included the growth of celebrity culture and the rise of anorexia websites.

But it also noted the increasing pressure around body image placed on children and teenagers through social media.

Sue Minto, head of Childline UK, said: "The 24/7 nature of social media places huge pressures on our children and young people which in turn can lead to significant emotional issues.

"And society is increasingly bombarded with celebrities and airbrushed images which give an impossible view of what 'beautiful' is."

It is certainly true that being 'thin' is one of the most desired traits in the western world. Being fat, chubby or overweight is now seen as 'ugly' and 'undesirable'.

This yearning to be skinny is driving young people to incredible and life-threatening lengths to lose weight. Apart from just not eating, increasing numbers of people are undergoing gastric band surgery, popping slimming pills, and having liposuction.

But even more worrying are the crazy new weight-loss fads. They include urine injections which trick your body into believing you're pregnant, thereby boosting your metabolism and helping you burn calories faster.

Or the cotton ball diet.

Videos on YouTube have young girls showing you just how to do the diet, which involves dipping cotton balls into orange juice, lemonade or a smoothie before swallowing them whole.

The idea is that the cotton balls will make you feel full and satisfied, so that you eat less and consequently lose weight.

Dr Terence Larkin, Consultant Psychiatrist at St John of God Hospital, says that he and colleagues across the sector have never seen so many people present with such an extreme severity of the illness, particularly in relation to anorexia nervosa.

He said: "People are presenting when they have become extremely emaciated, to the point that they don't need psychological treatment, what they need is actually medical intervention."

Bodywhys and all those organisations involved in helping and treating people with eating disorders say the earlier people seek help, the better the prognosis for a full recovery.

"Recovery is possible," stresses Harriet Parsons, services co-ordinator of Bodywhys.

"It is possible to get out of an eating disorder . . . it is not something a person has to live with forever . . . it is possible to reach a point where food and eating has a place in your life in the same way that it has for everybody else."

The Department of Health and Children estimates that 200,000 Irish people are currently affected by eating disorders.

An estimated 400 new cases emerge each year, representing 80 deaths annually.

We can only hope, as parents, that we will recognise the symptoms early enough to help our children and save them before they need to be hospitalised - and by then it may be too late.

IMO to launch proposals to combat substance and alcohol abuse


The Irish Medical Organisation is calling for "sensible and workable" measures to deal with drug abuse.


Recent figures show that since the 1960's the consumption of psychoactive substances and alcohol has increased to a point where almost over one quarter of all Irish adults say they have used them recreationally.


Meanwhile, more than half of Irish adults are classified by the World Health Organisation as "harmful drinkers".


The IMO will launch its position paper on addiction and dependency services later today.

After-school care is the missing part of childcare jigsaw


Busy parents of primary school children may see it as a much-needed digout. They are waiting to see what the government's long-awaited plans for subsidised after-school care consist of.

A growing number of parents are struggling to fit in school hours with their work schedule. One of their greatest difficulties is working out what to do after lunchtime when classes are over. The time between 2pm and 6pm has been described as the missing part of the childcare jigsway.

They may be hoping that we eventually follow the Scandinavian model, where children are accommodated in school until late in the afternoon. But that would come at a considerable cost, and it is not necessarily in the children's interest to be incarcerated in classrooms for a longer period.

At school-based afternoon clubs in Helsinki, children spend the afternoon pursuing their interests with friends. It is not just an extension of the school day.

They choose what they want to do and when they do it. They could be playing outside, painting or playing an instrument. Typically parents pay €4 a day for four hours of childcare and a snack.

There are a growing number of after-school clubs operating in Irish schools or in local creches. But the services are piecemeal, and the quality of care varies enormously.

June Tinsley, head of advocacy at Barnardo's says: "This sector is fragmented and unregulated."

Some of the clubs are staffed by volunteers, some are run by qualified staff employed by the school, while others are privately run by childcare providers who rent space from the school.

Children's Minister James Reilly has his work cut in trying to produce a coherent after-school childcare strategy. An after-school programme is already in existence for low-paid and unemployed parents, with the State contributing €40 per week for each child.

This small scheme is likely to be extended to other parents under plans being considered by a government working group.

Cost should not be the only consideration for parents and the government. They will have to ensure that the quality of care is high.

Dublin mother Laura Banks believes subsidies for after-school care are a good idea.

Her five-year-old daughter Anna already attends a breakfast club at St Patrick's National School, Diswellstown in Castleknock from 7.30am, and is also there in the afternoon until 5pm.

The facility at the school is run by Tigers After School Care, which also runs eight other after-school clubs in Dublin schools.

Laura Banks, who pays €500 per month to have Anna in after-school care, says: "There is a definite emphasis on having fun. They could be baking, making pancakes, running around the PE hall or doing arts and crafts. She always enjoys it.

"We are lucky that there is after-school care at the school. I work in a place where there are a lot of parents of young children, and they wish they had access to a similar facility."

One of the advantages of having after-school care on the school premises is that it can be fitted in with other extracurricular activities at the school, such as sport and dance.

Karen Clince, who runs Tigers After School Care, grew up in Australia, where this type of childcare is common.

"I was working as a resource teacher in Dublin and I saw how this type of service is needed. So, I set it up myself."

According to Karen Clince the atmosphere has to be very different to that in a classroom.

"It is much more laid-back and the the activities should be led by the children.

"We have planned activities, but the children might decide they don't want to do those, and they are free to do something else. A child might decide that they are going to read a book, go on a computer or play outside."

The staff are qualified in childcare to Level 5 or Level 6. The costs vary from €3.30 to €6 per hour, depending on how long a child is there.

After-school clubs have to be flexible in their structure. Some children might stay for only an hour at lunchtime while an older child finishes classes. Others might be there until 6pm.

In some areas in Britain there are clusters of after-school centres offering different activities. Children may choose a centre, according to their interests.

It will be difficult for James Reilly to come up with a strategy that suits all parents, and the budget for a scheme is likely to be limited.

One option is to give parents of primary school children tax credits for after-school care, but June Tinsley believes this would do nothing to guarantee the quality of services.

"We need to ensure that after-school services are better regulated and less fragmented.

"After-school care can play an important role in social and emotional development of children. It is often a crucial link for children who are struggling at school. It should not be run as an extension of the school day by the teachers who see the children earlier in the day. There should be less focus on the academic."

A working group studying after-school care in Ireland is believed to have looked at how parents are subsidised in New Zealand for up to 20 hours of care per week, for children aged between five and 14.

The childcare providers are certified to ensure centres are safe and well-run. The subsidies paid depend on the incomes of the parents.

'After-school staff must be qualified in childcare'


Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor believes improved after-school care is needed in schools to ease the burden of working parents.

"Childcare is one of the single biggest obstacles facing working families," says the former principal of the Harold School in Glasthule, Co. Dublin.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor helped to set up the after-school club at the school in 2009. Parents can drop their children in the school for an hour before the school starts and for up to four-and-a-half hours in the afternoon

Activities include arts and crafts, board games, team sports, and there is also a supervised homework club for an hour every afternoon. Staff are appointed through the board of management.

She says: "Children must be supervised by experienced and qualified childcare staff to ensure their safety and enjoyment."

White board jungle


Now children, please turn on your smartphones and put away those books right now. A new study by researchers at Miami University (where else?) has found that tweeting and texting in the classrom could help children to concentrate. They also help them to engage with subjects better.

The research suggests using phones in class could actually be beneficial, provided students stay on topic. So, it may not work if kids are sending selfies of themselves to their pals outside, or if they are posting links to YouTube videos of skateboarding cats.

Researchers tested students using mobile devices in class to see how they respond to messages that were relevant to classroom material. The students were then asked to take notes.

The research went against the established consensus that mobile devices disrupt pupils' learning in the classroom even if the subject matter is related to course material.

However, the study still suggests that texting about material that is irrelevant to the lesson, or texting at a very high frequency, can interrupt learning.

Police investigate 'tragic' case where 'schoolboy took his own life after social media trick'


Young people advised to stay safe online

An Irish schoolboy has taken his own life after being tricked into posting images on the internet.

Ronan Hughes, who was 17 and from the Coalisland area, passed away on Friday.

Ronan, a keen GAA player, was a pupil at St Joseph's in Donaghmore, Co Tyrone.

His funeral will take place at St Patrick's Church in Clonoe tomorrow morning.

Police described the case as "tragic" and have issued advice to young people in the Mid-Ulster area and beyond about the need for care when online.

Mid-Ulster District police commander Superintendent Mike Baird said: "Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of a 17-year-old schoolboy in the Coole Road area of Coalisland on Friday June 5.

“Our enquiries into this tragedy are continuing, however, it is understood the schoolboy took his own life after he had been tricked into posting images on a social networking site.

“Police are continuing to liaise with a number of statutory bodies and community representatives.

Officers have spoken to pupils at a school in the area and offered advice regarding safe internet use and any type of virtual interaction including social media sites, chatrooms and through interactive games.

“If anyone has experienced anything of a similar nature or has received any inappropriate images or links, it is important that they contact Police or tell a trusted adult.

By doing this you will be helping prevent further such incidents. You will not get into trouble.

“We all deserve to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other. But all of us need to be aware of the risks involved in doing so, especially on social media."

Parish priest Fr Benny Fee said the close-knit rural community had been left stunned and blamed "faceless individuals" for intimidating the teenager.

Fr Fee said: "He did not take his own life. His life was taken by these faceless people who put the child into a burning building that he felt he could not escape."

It is understood Ronan had told his parents about the cyber-bullying and made a complaint to police.

Fr Fee added: "It is a total and absolute tragedy but it is a different kind of tragedy because there is an element of cyber-crime involved.

"It would frighten any of us how children can be the victim of these faceless individuals. These people had something that they were using as a lever to frighten the child.

"But he had told his parents and they went to the police. It is just so tragic that these faceless people have robbed a family and community of a much loved child."

Scores of tributes have been left on Clonoe community Facebook pages.

His gaelic football team, Clonoe O'Rahilly's said the tragedy had cast a dark shadow.

A statement said: "Ronan was a youth player, having played goalkeeper throughout his short youth career. He was a quiet and modest young lad who was popular among all players and coaches. His death has left a dark shadow hanging over our club."

The Samaritans provides a support service for those who need to talk to someone. It can be contacted through or on 08457 90 90 90, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

How to stay safe online

  • Don’t share personal information or images with people you don’t know;
  • Don’t accept friend requests with someone you don’t know;
  • Set your privacy settings on all devices;
  • Don’t post anything online that you are not happy to be shared;
  • If someone has made you feel uncomfortable or you have had disturbing interaction online, tell someone you trust.

Children with disabilities missing out on pre-school


Access to the free pre-school year for children with special needs has been described as "inconsistent" and "not satisfactory" by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Up to 65,000 children are eligible for the current pre-school year but parents and childcare providers say many are losing out because they do not have vital pre-school assistants.

But without a pre-school assistant, some parents say their children would be unable to avail of the scheme.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has acknowledged that the current co-ordination and provision of supports for children with special needs is "not satisfactory".

It confirmed that improving the situation is a "priority" and is working with other departments to find a solution.

Early Childhood Ireland chief executive Teresa Heeney said the move is welcome, but warned: "A solution cannot wait until a medical model is available where there are enough speech therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, etc, in place to ensure that all assessments are completed before a child enters a free pre-school year."

Bernie Coghlan's son James (4) has autism and is nearing the end of his first year in pre-school. She says he "could not possibly go into pre-school without an assistant because he is non-verbal".

The mother from Carlanstown in Co Meath said: "While he is saying some words, he does not have the level of communication and he doesn't have the level of awareness, or social interaction that a lot of his peers would have. His assistant provides him with the opportunity to integrate himself into that environment."

Tanya Malone from Caulstown, Co Meath, said her daughter Beth (4), who has cerebral palsy, has also thrived as result of having a pre-school assistant.

"Beth only receives six hours a week so (although) she is in school Monday to Friday, she only has an SNA Thursday and Friday, which is really hard for a child with cerebral palsy.

"Her fine motor skills are not there and only for her SNA for those six hours a week she wouldn't be half the child she is now. "

Bernie and Tanya are supporting the Meath Fight for the Future campaign to get access to pre-school for children with special needs.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (CYA) confirmed it has agreed with counterparts in the Departments of Health,and Education and Skills, to seek a solution.

Alcohol initiative to tackle abuse


An initiative is being set up in Cork and Kerry to combat what is by far the biggest drug abused – alcohol.


Around 400 healthcare workers have just been trained to spot alcohol abuse and offer ‘coalface’ help to alcoholics.


HSE officials in the region have reported that alcohol is by far the number one abused drug, well ahead of cannabis, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax, and heroin.


Joe Kirby, rehabilitation co-ordinator for the Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force, said his organisation helped more that 2000 addicted people last year and around two-thirds were alcohol-dependant.


He said heroin addicts often used other drugs as well and when they couldn’t get heroin frequently abused a combination of alcohol and benzodiazepines.

The 400 trained for the anti-alcohol abuse project include mental health nurses, social workers, probation officers and midwives. A further 100 will be trained shortly.


Mr Kirby said his organisation was also setting up a benzodiazepines taskforce which will be launched in August. It will work with GPs to ween people off prescription drugs within their own communities.


The Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force is also teaming up with homeless services in the city an county to provide a “higher and more continuous” level of care for homeless people, many of whom are chronic alcohol abusers.


This is the first teaming-up of its type in the country and will be officially launched in September.


Mr Kirby told a meeting attended by health professionals, care workers and gardaí in County Hall yesterday that several other measures had to be taken to lower the very high levels of drinking in this country.


He said the government had to introduce minimum pricing, ensure the widespread availibility of alcohol was reduced and curtail alcohol-producing companies marketing their products.


Mr Kirby made his comments as the task force launched its strategic plan for 2015-2017.


David Lane, area operation manager for the HSE drug and alcohol services, said more investment would be needed to tackle alcohol abuse, which he described “as the elephant in the room” of drug addiction.

Abuse victims appeal redress rulings


Survivors of child abuse appealed 47 decisions by the body established to oversee requests for assistance from the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund last year.

However, only three complaints against decisions by Caranua, the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board, were upheld by an appeals officer.


Caranua was set up in 2013 to oversee the €110m fund which has been pledged by religious congregations to assist survivors of child abuse at industrial schools and residential institutions.


It is estimated that around 15,000 people who received compensation through settlements, the courts or the Residential Institutions Redress Board are eligible to access the fund for specified approved services such as health, education, and housing supports.


In his first annual report, appeals officer Patrick Whelan said 16 out of 38 appeals concluded last year related to decisions on eligibility to access the fund. However, he stressed that the regulations which established his role allow him no discretion on who is eligible to avail of the fund. He said this explained why it was not surprising that so many appeals were not upheld.


Nevertheless he observed that it seemed “particularly harsh and unfair to deny, without exception, all persons who have not received awards the opportunity to benefit from the fund”.


Mr Whelan also urged Jan O’Sullivan, the education minister, and Caranua to consider the inclusion of some services which do not come within the scope of the fund. They include funeral expenses, writing and book publishing, and visits to the institution and relatives’ burial places.


It is understood Caranua is separately considering requesting that the minister allow funding to be available for such services.


Other appeals related to home improvements or housing, refusals for provision of a car or van as well as mortgage or bank loan arrears.


Mr Whelan said he had found it necessary to remind Caranua on several occasions of its obligation to provide applicants with a reason why their applications were unsuccessful.


He also took issue with Caranua in a number of cases about comments made by some of its staff to unsuccessful applicants about the appeals process. In one instance, a survivor was told that he would be “wasting his time” making an appeal.


Mr Whelan said he advised Caranua it was important for it not to seek to influence an unsuccessful applicant in relation to making an appeal.


He said he believed independence and informality characterised the approach he took over the past year. He said he had striven to produce comprehensive and clear decisions which were objective and fair to both Caranua and appellants.

Exams advice for parents: How to support your son or daughter


Remember, these papers are not designed to catch students out, writes Brian Mooney

For many parents having a son or daughter take the Junior or Leaving Cert this week brings back waves of fear and anxiety which they last experienced when taking the exam themselves.

For many parents this sense of dread leaves them feeling overwhelmed and powerless in assisting their child to successfully negotiate their way through the next two weeks of exams. You can do a huge amount now to support your son or daughter, to make the experience for the whole family a rigorous but not necessarily stressful one.

There is a variety of course options open to all students, whether they secure high points or not, which will ultimately leave them in a position to enter their chosen career area. Very high points simply speed up the process.

Parents need to reassure their children the State Exams Commission (SEC), in drafting the papers in each subject, has not set out to catch them out. Rather the exams are designed to enable students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of each topic they have explored over the past two to three years of their programme.

Certain sections within individual questions are designed to test the brightest and the best students to the absolute limit of their potential. So parents should reassure their child that success is always relative to your ability in any paper, and not to get upset if the child fines the paper impossible to complete, perhaps a section or part of a particular topic.

Principals and deputy principals, who have guided students through this process over many years, will also be close at hand every day to resolve problems which may arise.

Junior Cert students face the biggest challenge this week with two papers daily in English (Wednesday), Irish (Thursday), and Geography/Maths (Friday).

Leaving Cert students on the other hand have an easier week ahead of them, with almost all students sitting English Paper 1 on Wednesday, English Paper 2 Thursday afternoon, and Maths Paper 1 on Friday afternoon.

Smaller numbers of Leaving Cert students will sit papers in home economics S&S on Wednesday afternoon, Engineering on Thursday morning, and Geography on Friday morning.

Ten tips for supporting your son or daughter

(1) Know the exam schedule. Pin the exam timetable up prominently at home, with each exam to be taken highlighted. Diary the date and time of each paper your student has to take. In the stress of the whole exam period you need to be always aware when they have to be in the examination centre.

(2) Ensure that your son or daughter is present for each exam. For parents who are working, and leaving home early, avoid the ultimate disaster of your child missing an exam. Ensure they are up and dressed before you leave home for work each morning. A small number of students regularly fail to turn up for morning papers.

(3) Draw up a check list of daily requirements, based on the day’s exams. Make a final check each morning before you leave home, so your son or daughter is fully prepared for the day’s exams. Writing instruments along with the other requirements such as rulers, erasers, calculators, should be checked, along with reading glasses, water, and any non-intrusive nourishment such as glucose sweets, or fruit.

(4) Listen to the story of the day and move on. After each day’s exams allow your son or daughter to recount to you their daily story. Do not be tempted to review in detail with them any errors or omissions in the paper. Such a process achieves absolutely nothing, other than to increase the student’s stress levels. Simply allow them the time and space to tell their story and move on to the next challenge, the next paper.

(5) Help them to focus on the next challenge. It can be helpful to your son or daughter to review the paper or papers immediately ahead. Simple questions such as, what is up next? Are there any compulsory sections? Are there any predictable questions? These questions can be useful in helping your student devise a study schedule for the time available before the next exam.

(6) Help them maintain a well-balanced daily routine. You should ensure your son/daughter has a proper balance between study and rest. After an exam they need time to rest and recharge before they can do any beneficial study for the next paper. Remember that on average this is a two-week process and they need top be as sharp on the morning of their final paper as they are today.

Late-night study sessions are not advised.

(7) A good night’s sleep improves exam performance. All study should end at least an hour before bedtime to allow the student to unwind before sleep. To help relaxation at this time, simple treats such as a hot bath, or some simple breathing exercises to slow down the body and mind can result in a refreshing night’s sleep. It is not advisable to fall straight into bed from the study desk as your mind will be buzzing for hours as you attempt to get to sleep.

(8) You are what you eat. What you eat and drink affects your performance in any activity, especially one involving mental sharpness. As a parent you should try to ensure your son or daughter has nutritious food during the coming weeks, starting with breakfast each morning, the lunch they bring with them if they are facing two exams, their evening meal, as well as snacks during the day. Grazing on junk food is very tempting at times of increased stress. Avoid this at all costs.

(9) Success is always a team effort. Drawing on the support of everything that is potentially positive in a student’s life helps to maximise exam performance. Such supports include a heightened awareness on the part of all family members in their interactions with the person doing exams, appropriate interactions with their friends, and participation in any sporting or social activity that is not injurious to ongoing success in the exams. All these factors help to maintain a student’s spirits during such an extended exam period.

(10) Do not over hype the importance of any examination. It is very easy in the middle of a stress-inducing experience such as a major exam to get the whole event totally out of perspective. Parents need to be aware that sons or daughters taking terminal examinations can sometimes mistakenly believe their standing in their parents’ eyes is dependent on their success in the exam.

Parents should ensure their student facing into the State exams over the coming weeks is absolutely clear that your unconditional love and regard for them is in no way dependent on how they perform in the Junior or Leaving Cert.

This affirmation is the greatest gift you can give them at the start of their examinations.

Crackdown pushes sex trade over border


Pimps and prostitutes are moving into the border counties of the Republic as a crackdown on the sex trade in the North comes into force, campaigners have warned.

There has been more than a 50pc rise in online sex trade activity in counties Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim and Louth in recent weeks, according to a study by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI).

Laws making it a crime for anyone to pay for sex came into force in Northern Ireland yesterday after it became the first region in the UK to back a ban late last year.

But Brian Killoran, chief executive of the ICI, said the border counties now face being used as a "safe haven" for sex traders in the absence of a similar ban by the Dublin government.



"The initial indications are that those who run prostitution have been feeling the heat of Northern Ireland's new laws and have been switching their operations to the south," he said.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland says profiles on escort agency websites linked to counties just over the border, have soared in the four weeks leading up to the new law.

In Louth, there were 25 escorts advertising their services at the end of May compared to 18 at the beginning of the month. Numbers were up from 14 to 24 in Donegal, from two to nine in Leitrim, and from 13 to 15 in Cavan.

Mr Killoran has urged the Gardai to monitor the increase in online sex trade activity.

HSE sets up intervention team over rise in HIV cases


The HSE has set up a special intervention team in response to a rise in new HIV cases among homeless drug users in Dublin City.


The Irish Examiner has learned there has been nine new cases among injecting addicts in the city so far this year, compared to almost no cases in the same period last year.


The HSE said they are still investigating the scale of the increase, but had identified 13 new cases since June 2014.


While the cause of the rise is not clear, it may be linked to the injection of the former head shop drug mephedrone, and abuse of tranquillisers called benzodiazepines.


GPs and drugs workers believe this may be contributing to a chaotic lifestyle, resulting in the sharing of injecting equipment and unsafe sex, the primary routes for transmission.


A HSE alert, seen by the Irish Examiner, states: “The Department of Public Health HSE East is investigating an increase in the number of new cases of recently acquired HIV in Persons who inject drugs (PWID) in Dublin in 2015.”


It said a multidisciplinary incident team had been set up, to “investigate and respond to this increase”.


Dr Austin O’Carroll, a city GP and HSE team member, said: “There has definitely been an increase in the detection of HIV cases in homeless people using drugs.”


He said there were indications the problem may be confined to a group of linked people. He said it was well known the causes were the sharing of injecting equipment and unsafe sex.


Dr O’Carroll said possible reasons could be the intravenous use of mephedrone, also known as snow blow.


He said this made users “agitated” which could lead to unsafe practices. The trend of users taking “high doses of benzos” could also be a factor , as well as the homeless crisis, with more people on the streets.


Tony Duffin of the Ana Liffey Drug Project said that the figures were “really worrying”. He suspected the rise was among a group of chaotic users who were injecting mephedrone.


“If you have a particularly bad mephedrone habit you can inject up to every two hours,” he said. “That means more injecting, more blood and more opportunity for sharing equipment. There also appears to be heightened sexual activity.”


A HSE spokeswoman said the team was identifying risk factors and control measures.


Drugs/HIV Helpline 1800 459 459

Slapping children ‘amounts to torture’


Slapping children amounts to torture and Ireland must ban it in all circumstances, human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has found.


This is the fourth time an Irish government has been told it is breaching the European Social Charter, a treaty it signed up to 15 years ago.


While hitting a child in school has been banned, carers minding up to three children, parents and relatives are still allowed to slap them if it is considered to be “reasonable chastisement”. But the Council’s Committee of Social Rights says that there is no such thing and beating children breaches the charter’s article 17, dealing with torture.


They further point out that while those minding children in foster and residential care have been advised they should not beat children, this has not been enshrined in law, and they say it should be.


Creches have been banned from hitting children in their care, but relatives or others minding young children in their homes or looking after fewer than three children are exempted from the ban.


The Government argued that its study, ‘Growing up in Ireland’, showed that 58% of nine-year-olds were never smacked and less than 1% of three-year-olds were now, and so the Irish approach was working.


But the Association for the Protection of All Children (APPROACH) that lodged the complaint against Ireland with the Council of Europe said research showed that a quarter of parents still hit their children.


The Government told the committee that it rejected the claims of APPROACH.


Children’s Minister James Reilly said he will review the common law defence of reasonable chastisement with the justice minister and has instructed his officials to prepare regulations to legally ban corporal punishment in residential and foster care.


The Children’s Rights Alliance applauded the finding of the committee and said that Ireland was out of kilter with most other European countries in not banning violence against children.


“In recent days, the world has witnessed Ireland’s decision to introduce marriage equality and is now asking — how can children not yet have equal protection in the law?” said Tanya Ward, Alliance chief executive.


“Violence against children, including corporal punishment, is a major abuse of their human rights, and equal protection under the law must be guaranteed to them.”


She said this was a step in the right direction for every child in Ireland. “It’s important the minister provides a timeline for introducing this change and provides support for parenting programmes on alternative forms of disciplining children.”


The committee’s unanimous decision was welcomed by Barnardos, which called on the Government to immediately outlaw all forms of child corporal punishment.

Ireland's smacking law violates the European Social Charter


The European Committee of Social Rights has found that the Republic of Ireland violated a European charter by not banning all corporal punishment, including parents smacking their children at home.


Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe which has not yet banned corporal punishment in the home.


The Committee said that the corporal punishment of children in Ireland is not prohibited in a sufficiently clear, binding and precise manner under domestic legislation or case-law.


The ruling follows a formal complaint in February 2013 from the UK-based 'Association for the Protection of All Children'.


In a statement, the Council of Europe said: "Violence against children, including corporal punishment, is a major abuse of their human rights, and equal protection under the law must be guaranteed to them."


"The Council of Europe has been working to see corporal punishment of children outlawed in each of its 47 member countries, and positive parenting programmes set up by governments to encourage parents to make the family violence-free."


The European Social Charter is a legally-binding social and economic counterpart to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Government announces funding reprieve for charities


The Government has announced €1.3m for a range of disability and health groups whose State funding had been cut.


Funding for the 30 organisations was set to run out at the end of next month.


The last-minute reprieve affects groups including the Irish Heart Foundation, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Alzheimer's Society.


The new money will help support the groups up to the end of June 2016.


Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Minister of State for Rural Affairs Ann Phelan admitted that the withdrawal of funding for the groups would have made it very difficult for them to maintain their services.


However, the organisations will still have to re-apply for the next round of funding, which begins in June 2016.

Recognising and dealing with growing issue of cyberabuse


US organisation has linked up with Safe Ireland on a project that will train service providers, gardaí and judges to deal with cyber-abuse

Technology is – usually – our friend. It lets us hail a taxi and turn on the heat before we get home.

But it has a dark side too. It facilitates new forms of cyber-harassment, stalking and other types of abuse, while those perpetrating it remain under the cover of anonymity.

Domestic violence (DV) support workers have noticed that more abuse is taking place online, and the methods range from using spyware to monitor and track victims to posting revenge porn.

“When we think of stalking, we think of someone hiding behind a bush or in a car, but in Ireland technology is the way forward. We see abuse on social media, mobile phones, constant texting,” says Deirdre Lawlor of the Dublin 12 Domestic Violence Service.

“We’re looking into teen dating abuse, which is getting huge. A lot of young girls are giving their boyfriends their [social media and email] passwords.”

The US-based National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) carried out a survey of victim services in the US last year.

Of the 346 respondents, 97 per cent said domestic and sexual assault victims who seek services are being harassed, monitored and threatened by offenders misusing technology.

Safety Net

NNEDV has partnered with Safe Ireland, an organisation that represents frontline DV services here, to launch a project called Safety Net, which is already up and running in the US and Australia.

The programme will train advocates, service providers, government agencies, gardaí and judges to recognise and deal with cyber-abuse. It will educate people to use technology safely while maintaining privacy.

“When we did our survey, we found that the majority of technology monitoring by offenders is happening via social media and text messaging. That’s what was bubbling up in conversation with Irish advocates,” says NNEDV’s vice-president Cindy Southworth, who was in Ireland earlier this year to train victim advocates.

“They’re really struggling with how victims can maintain a presence on social media after basically leaving an abusive partner.

“And the whole point is they’ve been isolated and cut off from family and friends, so we want them on social media,” she says.

Ms Southworth also advises some of Ireland’s leading tech companies about how to keep devices and platforms safe for victims and consumers in general.

Caitríona Gleeson, programme manager at Safe Ireland, says she is looking forward to adapting the Safety Net model to an Irish context and linking it to Irish laws.

She says Safety Net’s launch is tentatively planned for September, provided they can secure enough funding and government commitment by then.

Educating victims, gardaí, judges

The programme will teach support workers to show victims how to do things such as retain evidence using screen shots and teach them when not to use a device that has been compromised.

“To tell someone not to use technology is to further disempower and isolate the person.

“It’s not that the technology is bad. The mobile phone isn’t going to hurt you, but how someone uses it can control you,” Gleeson says.

“We have a lot of work to do in Ireland . . . within our legal system particularly.

“We want to bring increased awareness to gardaí and judges so that when a woman is going into a Garda station, gardaí are equipped to ask the key questions,” she says.

If a former partner always knows where you are, a key question might be, “Were you driving your car on the days your ex showed up?”

If so, your car could have a GPS device used for tracking. If not, your ex might be accessing location data from your phone.

“Those patterns help identify what technology is being misused. The last thing we want is a victim going to the gardaí and saying, ‘I’m being tracked, but I don’t know how.’ That’s not likely to get a strong response.

“But if they can go in and say, ‘I’m pretty sure my phone has been compromised. Over the past three months my ex has shown up at 16 places where I’ve been. It’s always been when I’ve had my phone, and I have a stalking log.’ There’s a much higher likelihood the officers will sit down and take that report and climb into the case,” says Southworth.

She says the next step is training judges. In the US, more judges are including text, phone and social media contact bans in protection orders.

“That’s not something we’ve heard the judges are doing yet in Ireland, but the advocates were very excited about the possibility.”

Assessing Irish law

Safety Net also plans to assess which Irish laws are available for victims of cyber-abuse.

“We have stalking laws at the moment, but there’s a debate whether the law is up to date with cyberbullying and technology, so this is a question that the Law Reform Commission are looking to have answered at the moment,” Gleeson says.

“We have lots of laws that aren’t being implemented consistently. So do we have to go through legislative change? Or can we just upskill to understand that if somebody is listening to me via a new form of technology, it’s still tapping?”

Southworth would rather use current laws to address cyber-abuse than rely on legislative change. “If every time a new device comes out we update the law, eventually we’re going to say, ‘You can’t stalk by using a computer that’s part of your watch.’

“What happens when it’s no longer a part of your watch, and the computer’s a part of your earring? Let’s not go there. The behaviour is what’s relevant, not the technology medium.”

Govt tolerating 'unacceptable levels of child poverty' - report


A new report from the Children's Ombudsman said the Government is tolerating unacceptable levels of child poverty, standing over discrimination in schools and failing to protect children.


According to the Irish Times, the report has been compiled for the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child ahead of its examination of Ireland next year.


The document being published today finds that, since Ireland was last before the committee, the proportion of children living in consistent poverty has almost doubled to 11.7%, representing 138,000 children.


The report is critical of a government target to reduce the figure to 37,000 by 2020, calling it "unacceptably high".

Gardaí release photograph of baby found abandoned


Baby, who has been named Maria, was found on Steelstown Road, in Rathcoole, Co Dublin

Gardaí have released a photograph of the baby found abandoned on the outskirts of Dublin on Friday, May 8th.

The baby, who has been named Maria, was found on Steelstown Road, a side road near the Blackchurch Inn in Rathcoole.

The publication of the photograph had been under consideration for the last week. However, gardaí and the child and family agency Tusla initially decided against the move in the hope such a significant step might not be needed.

But due to lack of progress in the case, the photograph has this afternoon been made public via the media.

A care order has been granted to the State to effectively formalise the current status of the baby as an unidentified child in the care of the health services. She has undergone medical examinations and been cared for at the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin, with additional care at Crumlin Children’s Hospital anticipated.

Gardaí have repeatedly said the child, who was believed to be around one-day-old when found, was well cared for in the brief period between her birth and being found

A motorist who had stopped for a toilet break at a gateway heard sounds and discovered the infant wrapped in a blanket and bin liner, inside a Marks & Spencer paper carrier bag. Forensic tests on the blanket and bag in which the child was wrapped were still under way.

The items were wet and have had to be dried at a set temperature to maintain the forensic value of anything that could be yielded from them.

CCTV footage

Moreover, CCTV footage of vehicles driving to and from the area where the child was found is also being trawled by a team of gardaí.

The man and his partner alerted gardaí.

Gardaí have received a number of calls from the public after several appeals for the mother of the newborn baby girl to come forward.

A statement from the gardaí read: “It has been 12 days since the discovery of the baby and we wish to thank the public for their assistance. Gardaí have received a number of calls from the public and all these calls have been followed through on, but unfortunately the mother has not yet contacted gardaí or Tusla.”

Today an image of the baby is being made available to assist the appeal.

“We are releasing this photograph so mum can see her little baby girl and we would ask mum to contact us so she can come see her,” said Sgt Maeve O’Sullivan, of the Child Protection Unit in Clondalkin.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Clondalkin Garda station on 01-6667600, or Tusla on 01-6206387.

Gardaí believe the location where the child was found was a “highly unusual” spot to leave a baby.

“It’s not somewhere you’d abandon a child if you wanted someone to find it and it’s also not the kind of place you’d leave her if you didn’t want people to find her. It’s baffling,” said one officer.

The child is believed to have been born in Ireland in the 24 hours before being found.

It is suspected there was no medical care at the birth.

Teachers say problem of hungry children is worse


Half of teachers see children arriving to school hungry at least once a week, according to a new report.

And more than three in four say the overall problem of hungry children has worsened in the past 12 months.

The report also reveals that one-in-five adults in Ireland worry about the amount of money they have to spend on food. Families with young children are more likely to feel the pressure, with as many as one in three of these concerned over their food budget.

Households on the lowest incomes are three times more likely to suffer than those on the highest, with 11pc of the poorest families experiencing food poverty, compared with 4pc of the wealthiest.

One-in-five households with children have had to change their eating habits due to financial constraints.

The findings are based on a survey conducted for the cereal company Kellogg's, which produced the 'Is the Food Divide Getting Bigger?' report in association with the children's welfare organisation, Barnardos.

Teachers see the impact of food poverty in school, and estimate that nearly one-in-five children don't have breakfast at least once a week.

Half of the teachers surveyed also report that one-in-three parents mentioned concerns over their ability to make their food budget stretch to the end of the week.

Barnardos head of advocacy June Tinsley said they saw parents struggling every day to provide enough food for their family and knew that parents often sacrificed having meals themselves to ensure their children were fed. She said arriving to school hungry affected children's behaviour and mood, affecting their ability to learn and enjoy interactions with classmates and teachers.

"If hungry children aren't given support to thrive it can also have a knock-on effect on the wider class. More widespread availability of breakfast clubs is needed as they are a proven way to help tackle the issue of food poverty."

Economist Jim Power said the report demonstrated that food affordability and food poverty were still issues for many.

He said the overall trend in spending on food had reduced since 2008, from a high of €7.95bn, reflecting the fact that many people had suffered income losses since the economic crash and did not have as much money to spend on food or anything else.

"Those on fixed and low incomes have been most badly affected," he said. The report states that standing back in the hope that the improving economy will have a significantly positive impact on food poverty was not a solution. It calls for a targeted approach to those most at risk.

It calls on policymakers to work with non-governmental organisations to address food poverty "in a meaningful way".

Among the measures suggested are greater support for food banks and local charities, more funding for the school meals programme, greater focus on food education and cooking skills and industry playing a greater a role in finding collective solutions to food poverty.

Figures show 4,700 disabled adults sexually abused in England in two years


Almost 5,000 disabled adults have been sexually abused in England in the past two years, figures show.


The NSPCC said information from 106 councils showing 4,748 reports of sex abuse against disabled adults is the “visible peak” of what could be a bigger problem.


People with learning difficulties were the victims of almost two thirds of reported incidents, the BBC found through Freedom of Information requests.


Jon Brown, the NSPCC’s lead on tackling sexual abuse, said while these figures focus on adults, disabled young people can also be victims.


“We know with sexual abuse that many victims find it difficult to speak out,” he told the BBC.


“We know from research that disabled children and young people are three or four times more likely to be abused and neglected than children and young people who are not disabled.


“Abusers are often very adept at identifying vulnerabilities. And, importantly, we know that it’s less likely for children and young people to be believed as well.”


The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme submitted requests for information to 152 councils with adult social services responsibilities.


The Local Government Association told the BBC that “keeping people safe, including people with learning disabilities, is one of the most important things councils do”.


It said “councils work hard to ensure support is available when cases of abuse are referred”.

Garda booklet aims to keep Cork teens on right side of the law


Gardaí are set to send out a potent message to 10,000 teenagers in West Cork warning them of the repercussions of breaking the law, but also how to keep out of trouble.


In what has been described as an unprecedented move, the booklet which is aimed at 13-18 year-olds, will be sent to all secondary schools, youth clubs and community organisations in the region.


Titled ‘Gardaí, Youth and the Law’ the publication covers a number of topics including bullying, cyber-bullying, underage drinking, drug-use, theft, knife-crime, public order law and road safety.


The booklet which was launched at a reception in the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, was sponsored by Kinsale Youth Support Services.


Among those present were Judge James McNulty, the presiding district court judge in the region; chief superintendent Tom Hayes and mayor of Co Cork Alan Coleman.


Chief supt Hayes said the primary reason for the publication of the booklet was to create a better understanding of the law among young persons.


He outlined how underage drinking can pose a particular problem, whereby young people may make poor decisions that could lead to situations such as assaults or public order. Such incidents, he said, could create long-term consequences for themselves.


Retired district court judge Michael Pattwell, also present, advised if any person received a conviction, it would have a major impact on their ability to travel. He praised the work being done in West Cork in keeping young people out of trouble.

'You're not in any trouble' - appeal to mother of 'Maria' to come forward


Garda have displayed a green Marks and Spencer bag, a black bag and a fleece in the hope of tracing the mother who abandoned her newborn baby in Rathcoole on Friday.

At a press conference at Clondalkin garda station, Superintendent Brendan Connolly said the items were similar to those found with the baby girl.

“Somebody out there must recognise these items and we are appealing for anyone who can assist us to contact us here in Clondalkin Garda Station,” he said.

“Sergeant Maeve O’Sullivan of the Child Protection Unit here in Clondalkin and her staff are available at any time. Anyone, or indeed any family member or friends, wishing to speak with Sergeant O’Sullivan will be dealt with with the utmost discretion.”

Superintendent Brendan Connolly said gardai were 'very' concerned for the welfare of the baby's mother, and expressed his hope that by putting the items on display it would help gardai reunite the baby with her mother.

Staff at the Coombe hospital in Dublin, where the baby is said to be doing well, have named her 'Maria'.

The newborn was between 24-36 hours old when she was found by a couple last Friday afternoon on Steelstown Road in Rathcoole.

It is understood that the driver pulled into a side road off the Dublin to Naas road at the back of the Blackchurch Inn and heard the baby crying.

She was found in a shopping bag along with a black bag and a cream fleece from Penneys shortly after 3:30 pm said Superintendent Brendan Connolly.

He added that investigators did not believe the baby had been left in the area "for any extended period of time".

Gardai confirmed that the child is Caucasian.

The child and family agency Tusla said that the baby would only remain in hospital until she is well enough to leave.

“She will then be placed with a foster family, probably in the coming days,” a Tusla spokeswoman said.

“From our perspective, we would appeal for the girl’s mother to come forward because she needs help and also to have a say in the future of her child."

“The mother will not be forced into taking her back, and she will not be judged or pressurised, but she can have a say in the child’s future with regard to fostering or adoption,” she added.

Superintendent Connolly said gardai will deal with the case with the "utmost sensitivity and care for the mother and child".

He refused to speculate when asked if 'Maria' had been born in a hospital or through a home birth.

10-year-olds smoke, binge on junk food to ease exam stress


Children as young as 10 are smoking cigarettes, gorging on junk food, and drinking energy drinks to prepare for exams, research has found.

A poll of more than 1,000 youngsters who took Key Stage Two SATs (papers taken in England by pupils in year six, when they are 10/11, as part of a national curriculum assessment programme) last year found eight had smoked before the tests, 37 ate chocolate, and 30 drank the high-sugar energy drinks.

The survey revealed that some 55% of youngsters feared getting bad results would affect their future lives.

Three in five children (60%) said they had been told by teachers that SATs were important for school league tables, while 68% admitted feeling pressured at exam time, according to the research by Kellogg’s.

Meanwhile, a second poll of more than 1,000 parents found that 20% believed their child was too nervous to eat before exams, while one in eight said their youngster had refused food.

Almost a fifth of parents (18%) said their child’s behaviour got worse during SATs week, and 74% felt their children were under more exam pressure than themselves when they were a similar age.

Children reported not being able to concentrate due to being nervous (20%), not being able to eat because of nerves (12%), and feeling hungry due to skipping a meal (14%), according to the survey carried out by Opinion Matters.

Some 22% of children reported losing sleep during their exams, but the figure rose to 59% among children who admitted skipping breakfast.

The findings come as thousands of pupils in England take their Key Stage Two SATs this week.

Child psychologist Dr Claire Halsey said: “It’s troubling that children are expressing so many worries about their exams.

“It’s natural to experience some pressure to perform before any test, even at age 10 and 11, but these results show that SATs have become more than a little nerve-wracking.”

Kellogg’s is donating 44,500 breakfasts to 300 school breakfast clubs to help children prepare for their SATs.

Six-month course helps violent men to change


A six-month programme aimed at getting men to address their violent behaviour against women is to begin in Galway.


MOVE (Men Overcoming Violent Emotion) started in Dublin in 1989 as a response to the growing incidence of domestic abuse and branches spread around the country.


It is a problem that has only worsened in the intervening years.


Nearly half of all the women killed in Ireland since 1995 were killed by a partner or ex-partner.


A 2004 review of domestic violence intervention programmes found that while “there will probably always be some men who will not change, some can and will, and that carefully managed group work programmes can help”.


“This is more likely to happen when the intervention is well designed, delivered and monitored. Researchers concluded that carefully managed group work programmes, particularly when delivered in conjunction with a criminal or civil justice response, are worth running,” the report found.


After an absence of over a decade, MOVE has returned to Galway. The 26-week group course is funded by the Government and is free of charge to participants. It is open to any man with a history of physical, emotional or sexual violence against a partner who is willing to change.


The programme also involves 40 weeks of work with the woman in the relationship or ex-partner, providing information, support and safety planning.


The biggest aim of the initiative is the protection of women and children, explains Darren Mulligan, a social care worker who is one of the facilitators on the course.


“We do an awful lot of work with the partner – more than with the perpetrator, it goes on for much longer. But this is the only thing out there aimed at the men, something needs to be done with men to address domestic violence or it won’t stop,” he insists.


On joining the group, the men must sign a contract stating they will not engage in violence for the duration of the six months and commit to change.


Participants can refer themselves if they realise they have a problem with domestic violence while others are referred through the Probations Services or by social workers.


With a minimum of eight in the group, it is facilitated by a male and female care worker once a week for two hours.


“The biggest thing we are trying to do is identify triggers – what gets them to that stage. When they can identify the triggers, they can work out a different behaviour, maybe have time out and go for a walk instead of lashing out,” states Darren.


“The group gets support from each other by talking, being honest and come to an understanding of what’s really going on.”


The programme examines carefully what happens before and after violent incidents and the emotions and behaviours that lead up to violence. The participants are helped to understand these and given techniques to help them slow down, think about what they are doing and make different choices. Among the skills taught are self tracking patterns of behaviours that are harmful to themselves or to others and improving communication.


Previous groups have followed a familiar pattern. Generally it takes six weeks before men take responsibility for their behaviour.


“In the beginning they may be blaming the gardaí, social workers, probation officers for their violence. It may be alcohol, a history of violence in the family. It then dawns on somebody, hey lads, we are here because of us, and they take ownership, it clicks.


“Not everyone who drinks is violent, not everyone who was abused is violent. It’s really about taking ownership of the here and now,” reflects Darren.


The 2004 review found that while not all men quit their abusive behaviour, some do change.


“Some of these changes do seem to be attributable at least in part to the men’s participation on the programme, although it is difficult to isolate what is due to the programme and what is due to other factors, principally the influence of separation or the threat of it and the effects of other interventions or the threats of them,” the researchers found.


“Some men do not change whilst they are on programmes. Even if they do not change, programmes could be a way of assessing and monitoring their behaviour and holding them to account.”


The women who have been victimised stated they felt safer following their participation.


“Women who come into contact with the programmes when their partners apply to participate often get help, advice, support and information for the first time. Some of these women are unlikely to have received this help from anywhere else.


“Some women are able to use this information and help to make informed choices about their own protection. When they do, they often find increased safety as a result. Some women get such high levels of support and advocacy that they feel that their lives have changed completely, even if they did not feel that their partner or ex-partner changed.”


Darren believes if the programme persuades even a handful of men to leave their violent behaviour behind it will have been worth the six months of work.


“I don’t think we can say they’re cured.  It’s the only group of its kind in Ireland that targets perpetrators so if you have a few men out of every group who learn how to have relationships that are based on love and trust and not on power and control, that’s a success.”


There are still slots available for men on the course due to start in May. For more information contact 085 8087465.

80% of children don’t get enough physical activity


Only one fifth of primary school children in Ireland are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.


A new study from University College Cork reveals what researchers say is an “alarming” lack of basic physical movement skills among Irish children and young adults.


Almost 250 children were tested by UCC to see if they could perform the nine physical skills children should be able to master by the age of six.


Of all the children tested, just one child could perform all nine skills to a satisfactory level, despite the fact they were twice that age.


Dr Wesley O’Brien from UCC explained that the study was at a basic level.


“It is important to note that we were asking children to run in a straight line, not to run on the field like gaelic games or to run on a tennis court.


“This was just running in a straight like. It was at a basic level and we were finding that children could not master it,” he said.


Recent HSE figures show that only half of Irish children are getting anything close to the amount of exercise they should be getting.


Director of Sports Studies and Physical Education at UCC, Dr Fiona Chamers, said steps are being taken to turn this trend around.


“We have a new health homework programme that is Super Troopers programme which is involving about 60,000 children and bringing the message around physical activity and health from school and into the home,” she said.

Manhunt for teen accused of raping young girl (13)


A Blackpool teen accused of raping a young girl is believed to be on the run in Ireland after he fled the UK in March.

Gardai are seeking to trace Ryan Humpage (18) after he was spotted in Co Kildare last week.

Members of the public have been advised not to approach the teenager, who is understood to have travelled to Ireland in recent weeks.

It is believed that he was previously in Co Sligo, and a Garda spokesperson said it was likely he was using various aliases, which include Dylan Dunne, Ryan Willington, Ryan Williams and Karl Ward.

He is known to have friends in Belfast, Scotland, Blackpool, Northumbria and Northamptonshire.

The 18-year-old is wanted by UK police in connection with rape of 13-year-old girl in Blackpool in December 2013.

He is the focus a Crimewatch UK appeal by police in Lancashire, who want to quiz Humpage in connection with said rape, as well allegations involving theft and assault.

He is described as white, 5ft 7ins with short mousey brown and of medium build.

The teenager is known to have links to South Shore and Bispham in Blackpool.

Gardai wish to establish the current whereabouts of Ryan Humpage and are appealing for anyone with information to immediately contact Naas Garda station on 045 884300.

New weapon for parents in the war on cyber-bullying


Parents may soon be able to spot whether their child is being bullied on social media sites thanks to a new programme being devised by an Irish cyber expert.

Mary Aiken, a cyber psychologist - who is the inspiration behind 'CSI: Cyber', the latest spin-off of the hugely popular American crime drama franchise - revealed that she is currently working with a tech company in Silicon Valley to write an algorithm aimed at spotting warning words such as "hate".

She believes it would be an "elegant solution" which would allow parents to get an alert about a potential problem with cyber-bullying without them actually having to breach their child's privacy by reading their communications. She was speaking at a Law Reform Commission seminar on cyber-bullying.

Former Justice Minister Michael McDowell warned we should be "very circumspect" in bringing in new criminal offences related to the internet because of limited resources. The focus should be on rights sustained by duties, he said.

Pupils’ booklet on mental health reaches three finals


A booklet designed to help young people take care of their mental health has seen its six transition-year creators advance to the finals of three national competitions in the next month.


Bishopstown Community School students Aleksandra Jedrzejczyk, Niye Aihie, Liam Harrington, Maeve McGovern, Fiona Murphy, and Saulius Zurnia wanted readers of their booklet to really think about their mental health.


Therefore Changes asks people to take a new challenge every day for 30 days. Every day’s challenge builds on those before it and seeks to equip the reader with the skills necessary to keep managing their mental welfare, from analysing the way they talk and view themselves to nurturing the relationships they have with others.


The booklet, which had funding from the Young Social Innovators and Vodafone Ireland, has qualified the students for the Local Enterprise Office/Mini-Company national finals in Croke Park today. It is also up for the Young Social Innovators national finals on May 6 and the Junior Achievement Ireland Mini-Company finals in Dublin City University a week later.


The school’s transition-year co-ordinator, Alan White, worked on the book with the students and said he had been studying mental health for a number of years.


“This project has helped the class not only learn about running a business but has also taught them a great deal about mental health,” he said.


“We took the challenge ourselves over 30 days, we met each morning before class to read through each challenge together.”

Homeless services deal with almost 1,000 children


Figures show 55% increase in number of homeless families in Dublin since last June

Almost 1,000 children in Dublin are homeless and living in emergency accommodation, the latest official figures show.

The figures, from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), show that during the week of March 23rd to March 29th there were 411 families in emergency accommodation in the capital with 911 children.

Some 251 of these were headed by single parents, and 160 by couples. The total number of adults and children in family units in emergency accommodation last month was 1,482.

These figures compare with 371 families with 803 children in emergency accommodation in Dublin the previous month and represent the biggest monthly increase since the family homelessness crisis in the capital began to escalate last year.

The latest figures also represent a 55 per cent increase in the number of homeless families in the capital since June last year, and a 60 per cent increase in the number of children. In that month, which is when comparable data was first gathered, there were 264 families with 567 children in emergency accommodation.

Sharp increase

The number of children who have lost their homes in Dublin has increased almost every month since then. Between December and January there was a sharp increase from 331 families with 726 children to 359 families with 780 children.

The vast majority of these families are coming from the private rented sector, where in Dublin rents increased by an average of 7 per cent from €1,216 to €1,301 for houses last year and by 10.9 per cent, from €1,051 to €1,166, for apartments.

A spokeswoman for the DRHE, which co-ordinates homeless services across the four local authorities in the capital, said services were “managing an unprecedented demand for [emergency accommodation] in the Dublin region”.

“Local authority staff are working on a daily basis to ensure that families who are at risk of imminent homelessness can be accommodated and can avoid the experience of sleeping rough,” said the spokeswoman.


The numbers continue to increase despite commitments from the Taoiseach and the Department of the Environment that tackling family homelessness was a priority.

In November last year, when questioned in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about the figures, Enda Kenny said no one could condone homelessness among children.

He said the issue was a priority for Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and the Government.

Since then the number of homeless families has increased by 104 and the number of homeless children by 231.

“Until you get to the point where you actually provide sufficient social housing, you cannot lessen the scale of demand here,” said Mr Kenny.

Mike Allen, head of advocacy with Focus Ireland, said the key factor triggering homelessness was the decision last month, by the Department of Social Protection, not to increase rent supplement rates.

The highest rent a couple with two children, in receipt of rent supplement, may pay in Dublin is €975 per month and €900 in Fingal.

“This has left families unable to afford the rents which landlords now demand. The mass eviction and homelessness of large numbers of workless families is the direct and inevitable consequence of the Department of Social Protection’s policy,” said Mr Allen.

Plan for emergency social workers


Plans are being put in place for the first nationwide out-of-hours social work service —10 years after the outcry sparked by the deaths of Sharon Grace and her young daughters.


The service will be co- ordinated through a national night-time and weekend call centre which will link gardaí and hospital staff to on-call social workers in every county.


Gardaí, hospital staff, and GPs will also have access to a Child Protection Notification System holding the names of children who are already the subject of Child Protection Plans.


However, progress in setting up the service is contingent on a number of factors, including adequate staffing at a time when social workers complain that they are struggling with impossible workloads.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said the service would be called the Emergency Out of Hours Service (EHOS).


“This initiative has been the subject of extensive discussions with the relevant trade union and these discussions are ongoing,” said a department source.


Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which will oversee the EHOS, advertised an unspecified number of whole-time, part-time, and contract positions for social workers in the past week. It said: “Detailed negotiations with the relevant union are close to being concluded.”


The lack of out-of-hours social work services outside of the greater Dublin area was highlighted tragically ten years ago this month in Co Wexford when a distressed Sharon Grace, 28, went to her local hospital on a Saturday evening with her daughters, Mikahla, four, and Abby, three, and asked to see a social worker.


She was told they only worked 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, so she left and went to nearby Katts Strand on the Slaney River where she walked into the water, drowning all three of them.


After their deaths, a working group was set up to examine the case for a 24-hour social work service and it concluded in 2007 that it should be provided but the then Department of Health and Children ruled it out.


Eventually, two pilot projects were set up in 2011 in Cork and Donegal and the EHOS is based on those.


However, already the service is likely to fall short of what was hoped for following the Katts Strand tragedy. Its focus will be on children in danger and Tusla was unable to say how the provision of supports would change, if at all, in a case where a parent or other vulnerable adult needed help.


In the last few weeks, the chairman of an inquest jury in Co Wexford was moved to speak out about the community’s dismay at the lack of out-of-hours services after a local woman who took her life left a letter detailing how she “reached out” for help at night but was “dismissed and ignored”.


The Impact trade union which represents most social workers complained recently that more than 200 social work positions were unfilled, backlogs were growing and social workers were under increasing pressure.


However, Impact assistant general secretary Christina Carney said she was hopeful of reaching agreement on the EHOS.


“We are in discussion with Tusla and we are talking about the provision of the new service,” said Ms Carney. “We have always been committed to an out-of-hours service and we hope that we can conclude an agreement.”

Charity holds training session for teachers to spot depression


Concern is being expressed about the pressures on teachers to spot signs of depression amongst their students.


Bereavement charity Console is holding a training session today aimed at giving teachers tools to spot signs of pupils who may be in distress and who may be considering taking their own lives.


The organisation said the reduction in the number of guidance counsellors across the country means teachers now have added responsibilities in student welfare, but may not have the confidence or training to deal with these issues.


"From what we hear, we know that this puts added pressure on teachers … while this training doesn't claim to teach anyone to be a counsellor, it does give them a little more confidence," said Kieran Austin, Director of Services with Console.


"Situations can be handled with a little bit more understanding, compassion, and empathy - and hopefully with a little bit more positive result."

Supreme Court alters evidence rule which had applied since 1990


The Supreme Court has relaxed a 25-year-old rule which effectively excluded from a criminal trial evidence which was obtained through a breach of an accused's rights.

In a case that could have major implications for the investigation and prosecution of crimes, the court granted an appeal by the DPP to relax a 1990 rule concerning exclusion of evidence.

The application of the rule led to a man, known as JC, being lawfully acquitted of burglary charges. The issue of whether the man will be retried will be decided later. By a four to three majority, the Supreme Court granted an appeal by the DPP to alter a rule which had applied since 1990 in a Supreme Court case entitled "DPP v Kenny".

That rule has, since 1990, effectively excluded all evidence obtained where there was a breach of a constitutional right, whether or not that breach was deliberate or due to a mistake.

The majority court said the Kenny decision was a determination, in relation to admissibility of evidence, of the "proper balance" to be struck in vindicating the constitutional rights and principles at stake. The majority court said it was replacing the Kenny test with a new "clear" test designed to effect an "appropriate" balance between competing factors.

Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell, who formed the majority view with the Chief Justice Susan Denham, Mr Justice Frank Clarke and Mr Justice John MacMenamin, said the Kenny decision was "plainly wrong" and it was "long past time it was addressed".

Mr Justice MacMenamin, agreeing, said the reputation and integrity of the system of justice should not be adversely affected by a "good faith exception" that was "properly and faithfully applied to the exclusionary rule properly and constitutionally applied".

In a dissenting judgment, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said the Kenny decision was essential to the maintenance of the liberties of a citizen.


The new rule would permit "inadvertence" by public officials with coercive powers to sufficiently excuse a breach of a citizen's constitutional rights to allow material obtained by such breach to be proved in evidence against them, he said.

Also dissenting, Mr Justice John Murray said the consequences of the majority court ruling was "to change the goalposts, not during the game but after the game is over, except is it not about a game or sport, it is about a criminal trial and justice which the Constitution requires shall be considered in due course of law".

Mr Justice Liam McKechnie also dissented and said it could not be said that the Kenny decision was "plainly wrong".

In the appeal, the DPP asked the Supreme Court to review the exclusionary rule of evidence under which the courts refuse to allow evidence be admitted if obtained in circumstances involving a breach of a defendant's constitutional right, irrespective of whether that right was breached by mistake.

The DPP asked the Supreme Court to find the rule was misapplied in the man's case and to make a "conclusive" decision on the applicability of the rule to future cases.

What was the ruling about?


The case involved a man who was acquitted on burglary charges. The case against the man, known as JC, collapsed after evidence was excluded under a 25-year-old exclusionary rule laid down by the Supreme Court decision in the 1990 Kenny case.

The man was acquitted by direction of the trial judge on the grounds that gardaí had effected an unlawful entry into his home under a warrant issued pursuant to S29 of the Offences against the State Act 1939.

Because the section of the 1939 law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012, the evidence was excluded in the JC case, leading to his acquittal.

The DPP appealed the trial judge’s decision, arguing that the judge erroneously excluded the evidence even though the judge had relied on the Supreme Court’s own rule in the Kenny case.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court overruled its own decision on the so-called exclusionary rule and rewrote the test for admitting unconstitutionally obtained evidence.

A decision on whether JC will be subject to a retrial or his acquittal will stand will be taken at a later date


The old rule


Evidence obtained in breach of an accused’s constitutional rights excluded at trial, unless there are special or exceptional circumstances, even if the actions of the gardaí are accidental or intentional.

The new rule


Evidence obtained in breach of an accused’s constitutional rights excluded at trial unless prosecution establishes that the breach was not conscious and deliberate.

Unconstitutionally obtained evidence will also be admitted where the prosecution establishes that the breach of rights was due to inadvertence or derives from subsequent legal rights.

Children's jabs will continue to be voluntary - HSE


Irish parents will continue to be able to make up their own minds on whether they vaccinate their children against disease.

The Health Service Executive will not be following the "no jab, no pay" policy of Australia - which means parents lose benefit payments if they fail to consent to their children getting jabs to protect them from diseases like measles.

A HSE spokeswoman said that Irish parents can continue to consent to vaccinations for children up to the age of 16.

Last year, 93pc of children here had the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at 24 months. This is the highest national uptake rate recorded and compares with 2001, when uptake was 69pc at 24 months.

The figure relates to national take-up but there remain pockets, including socially disadvantaged areas, in which vaccination rates are below target.

The MMR vaccination rate dropped after it was wrongly linked to autism.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said that their rules would soon be substantially tightened. He said there would only be a small number of religious and medical exceptions to the new rules - supported by the Labour opposition and due to come into effect in early 2016.

"It's a very important public health announcement, it's a very important measure to keep our children and our families as safe as possible," he said.

The prime minister said that his government was "extremely concerned" about the risks posed to the rest of the population by families who choose not to immunise their children.

Anti-vaccination campaigns have been gaining ground in some Western countries in recent years - coinciding with a resurgence in preventable childhood diseases like measles.

Gardai interview parents who used controversial bleach treatment on autistic children


Gardai have interviewed a number of people who gave their autistic children a controversial bleach treatment, believing it could ‘cure’ them.

The interviews were carried out after a joint investigation by the Health Products Regulatory Authority and the gardai into the controversial treatment, being promoted in Ireland by an international cult.

The substance is known as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) – however it is really just an industrial strength bleach.

It claims that it cures a number of medical conditions, including autism and AIDS.

The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing is led by former Scientologist Jim Humble.

It is understood a dentist and a nurse are among those questioned about the controversial treatment.

However there is currently no legislation in place here to ban parents treating their children with MMS.

The product makers are able to circumvent current legislation by describing MMS as a water purifier.

The HPRA is continuing its investigations into MMS.

This has been hampered by recent adverse publicity, which has forced distributors underground – however there have been several searches and seizures over the last 12 months.

Free GP care scheme for children under age 6 to come into effect in July


‘Major step’ in improving access, quality and affordability of care, says Varadkar

The Government’s long- planned scheme for free GP care for children aged under six is to come into effect in July after a deal was agreed with doctors’ representatives.

About 270,000 children stand to benefit from the agreement between the Government and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).

The scheme will provide for a new “cycle of care” for children with asthma. This will involve structured visits, education of children and parents, medicine and inhaler technique reviews and an individualised asthma plan for parents.

All children will receive two “wellness” checks, at ages two and five, to monitor height and weight.

For existing medical card and GP-visit card patients who have type 2 diabetes, the new scheme provides for the introduction of a “cycle of care” involving two annual consultations.

Annual cost of €90m

The introduction of the new arrangements will cost close to €90 million annually.

The IMO has backed the new deal, but it will be up to each individual GP to decide on whether to participate in it.

Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said the Government would be looking for 80 per cent of family doctors to participate but would be hopeful 100 per cent would do so.

In cases where a GP did not sign up to providing free care for children under six, parents would have to find a doctor who was in the system in order to get the free services.

The introduction of free GP care was a key element of the Government’s overall health reforms. Originally it had planned to introduce GP care without fees for the whole population in the lifetime of the Government but this has been delayed. Talks on the plan have been under way for a number of years.

GPs will be paid a capitation fee of €125 a year for each child under the new scheme. The IMO said this was 82 per cent more than the existing rate.

However, it told members in an internal message the fee per patient amounted to €216 when additional payments such as practice supports, medical indemnity, special items of service, pension and special type consultations were taken into account.

Major step forward

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said the agreement represented “a major step forward in improving access, quality and affordability of healthcare in Ireland. It also marks the most tangible step forward so far along the road to universal healthcare.”

“From this summer, up to 300,000 children and senior citizens who currently have to pay to see their GP will no longer have to. This will mean real savings for pensioners and families.

“But it is about much more than that. The new enhanced service covers all children under six, including those who have medical cards already. They will benefit from management of asthma in general practice and preventative wellness checks.

“Adults of all ages will benefit from the new diabetes programme, meaning they will have their condition managed by the GP who knows them, rather than in the hospital clinic.”

IMO GP committee chairman Dr Ray Walley said: “We have stopped the cycle of cutbacks and begun the process of bringing new investment into general practice. We have more to achieve but we believe this is significant first step.”

Pharmacists warn Irish parents about the dangers of codeine based cold and flu medicine


Irish pharmacists have issued a warning to parents about the possible dangerous side-effects of codeine-containing medicines used to treat coughs and colds in children under 12.

Treating children with codeine-containing medication could cause serious side-effects including respiratory difficulty and its use is prohibited in children below 12-years-old.

Use of medication containing codeine is also not recommended in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18, particularly if they already have problems with their breathing, particularly asthma.

Speaking of the dangerous misuse of codeine-based treatments in children Pharmacist and Honorary Treasurer of the IPU said: “The use of codeine for coughs and colds is prohibited in children below 12 years of age and is not recommended in children and adolescents between 12 and 18 who have problems with breathing due to the risk of serious side-effects.

“Coughs and colds are generally self-limiting conditions and the evidence that codeine is effective at treating cough is limited in children.”

The latest warning comes following new restrictions from the European Medicines Agency Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee, which is responsible for assessing and monitoring safety issues for human medicines.

School ‘old boy network’ privilege to be wiped out


Schools will only be allowed to reserve one in 10 places for the children of past pupils under plans to be announced today by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan.


The move is set to spark a massive backlash from the country’s most influential ‘old boys’ networks.


Under the plan, schools will also be required to make an explicit statement in their admission policy that they will not discriminate on grounds such as sexual orientation, disability or race, special educational needs, or against Travellers.


Ms O’Sullivan’s clampdown on the ‘parent rule’ goes much further than proposals by her predecessor Ruairi Quinn, who wanted to set a 25pc limit.


Writing in today’s Irish Independent, Mr Quinn’s former special adviser John Walshe predicts that Ms O’Sullivan is “about to set off the most almighty row between Labour and Fine Gael, whose ministers will be lobbied intensely by the fee-paying schools sector”.


Ms O’Sullivan will explain her thinking on the ‘parent rule’ when she addresses the conference of the Irish National Teachers Organisation today.


She will say that her view is that a “cap of perhaps 10pc of all school places is as high as such a threshold should be set”.


The Admissions to School bill aims to bring more fairness and structure into the enrolment process at both primary and post-primary level, including a ban on schools charging parents to apply for places.


Other significant changes include awarding new powers to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the Child and Family Agency, Tulsa, to designate a school for a child who has no place.


But the minister's desire to slash to 10pc the places a school may guarantee for children of past pupils will provoke an outcry from certain schools, including those in the fee-paying sector that place a high value on social networks.


Such a limit would only come into play if a school has more applications than the number of places it is offering.


Ms O'Sullivan is not planning to impose any restrictions on a school's right to enrol brother or sisters of pupils, or past pupils.


Past pupils of two of the most elite schools in the country, Blackrock College and Belvedere College, many of them in the legal profession, have already started high-profile campaigns against any move to limit the school's freedom to enrol their children.


Around one in five schools cannot meet the demand for places and are currently allowed to use their own range of selection criteria, such as family links and designated feeder schools, to prioritise applications. There are no legal restrictions on the number of children of past pupils that a school may admit and many see strong inter-generational family links as key to building a sense of community.


In February, a Traveller boy lost a Supreme Court case taken after he missed out on a place at a Tipperary school due to the 'parent rule'.


Ms O'Sullivan hopes that the bill will pass through the Oireachtas before the summer break. Detailed regulations will then be published to give effect to the changes. Ms O'Sullivan will tell teachers today that she is happy to listen to all views on the admission rules.




The new law will prohibit the charging of payments or contributions as part of the admission process or for continued enrolment, other than for fee-charging and boarding schools.


Another provision could require schools in an area to co-operate with each other in relation to their admissions processes.


Among the other criteria that schools will be prohibited from applying in the selection process are occupation or final status of parents; a student's academic ability; the date on which an application for admission was received.


Catholic and other denominational schools will also be allowed to continue to give preference to children of their faith.


Schools will also be permitted to give priority to children on the basis of their date of birth, catchment area, designated feeder schools and being a son or daughter of a staff member.

7 myths about autism debunked


It was World Autism Awareness Day yesterday but do we really understand about it?

87% of people living with autism think the general public don’t have a good understanding of the condition. Some people with autism may have accompanying learning difficulties, but autism itself has nothing to do with intellectual capability.


1. Autism is not a mental health problem.


It’s a lifelong developmental condition but according to new NAS figures, 28% of people believe, incorrectly, that autism is a mental health condition.


2. Autism doesn’t affect men more than women.


Various studies have come up with male/female ratios ranging from 2:1 to 16:1. But recent research has suggested that the number of girls to boys with autism is actually far more equal than diagnoses would suggest. The problem is in the way autism manifests itself in women that makes it harder to diagnose. Actually, 42% of females have been misdiagnosed, as compared to 30% of males.


3. Autism is not as uncommon as most people think.


There are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism, including Aspergers – that’s more than 1 in 100. New figures released by the NAS show that only 25% of people know that more than 1 in 100 people in the UK have autism.


4. Most people don’t know that people with autism can often be over or under sensitive to sounds, sights and smells.


It turns out just 42% of people think that people with autism  have difficulty processing everyday sensory information and can be over- or under-sensitive to stimuli like light and sound.


5. Not everyone is diagnosed as children, many are diagnosed later in life.


6. Most people with autism want to be around others and have friends and relationships.


According to an NAS survey, 65% of people with autism said they would like to have more friends, but while social skills are something many of us take for granted they can be difficult for someone with autism, and this can come across as a mistaken disinterest for forming friendships.


7. Of course people with autism can work, but unfortunately only 15% are in full time employment.


In fact employers could be missing out on abilities that people on the autism spectrum have more than anyone else, like pattern recognition, logical reasoning, and attention to detail.


Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the NAS, said that awareness has increased dramatically in the last 50 years, a time when people with autism were often written off and hidden from society.


He said: “But there is still a long way to go before autism is fully understood and people with the condition are able to participate fully in their community. All too often we still hear stories of families experiencing judgemental attitudes or individuals facing isolation or unemployment due to misunderstandings or myths around autism.

“If we’re really going to improve the world for people with autism, we need to move away from focusing on simply raising awareness and ensure we are building understanding of autism and the different ways it can affect people.


“This has to happen in every sector of society, from health and social care, to culture and the media. Better understanding of autism would improve every part of the life of a person with autism, increasing the chances of an early diagnosis and support, lowering incidents of bullying at school and improving employment prospects.


“The right understanding and support can make all the difference and ensure that they live full lives as part of their local communities.”

Gardaí save boy (6) sold for sex by his parents


A six-year-old boy who was being prostituted by his parents has been rescued after an EU-wide investigation into paedophilia.


Detectives raided a house in Tipperary and placed the child into the care of the State.


Gardaí were acting on information received by European police agency Europol last December, after communication was made with the Garda Paedophile Investigations Unit.


Video footage of the abuse was discovered online.


Officers tracked down the internet provider address which was traced to a house in the south region of the county.




It is believed the parents were prostituting their son online to be sexually abused, according to an informed source.


"This is the worst case we've ever dealt with," the source said.


"It involves the absolutely horrific treatment of a child."


The rescue came as a result of an emergency care order being granted at a district court hearing in Tipperary last week.


This order allowed gardaí and social workers to take the boy away from the adults he was living with and allowed an urgent medical examination.


Gardaí contacted the offices of a Child and Family Agency social worker last week, informing them that a house would be searched due to concerns that a child living there may have suffered sexual abuse.


Detectives who had examined the online images and were involved throughout the investigation identified the rescued boy as the child who appeared in a number of disturbing pictures and videos online.


Investigating officers also discovered a number of items, including "implements and blankets", which were visible on the sick footage. Gardaí believed there was an immediate risk to the child's safety and put him into foster care.


A month before contact was made between the two agencies, Europol hosted a Victim Identification Task Force to harness international co-operation.


Over 12 days, experts in victim identification from 11 police agencies in nine countries worked together at Europol in an attempt to identify victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.


This Europol-coordinated effort led to 240 new collections of material being uploaded to Interpol's computer database and additions were made to more than 100 collections already present there.


It was hoped that the combined initiative would result in a better chance of child victims being identified.

Interview with Social Care Ireland President Carlos Kelly


Social Care Ireland’s 2015 annual conference took place in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sligo this week, with the theme of this year’s conference being “Building Relationships and Breaking Barriers”. 

Speaking to Social Care Training Ireland after the very successful conference, President of Social Care Ireland Carlos Kelly had very positive feedback from the event:

On the conference:

“Without a doubt, the conference was a great success. From an attendance perspective, we had 180 attendees from every corner of the country. From an educational point of view, we had 47 academics and professionals either speaking or presenting workshops over the course of the three days. As an organisation, there was a definite drive underway and we know what we need to achieve going forward. There is certainly an appetite for meaningful change and the conference provided an opportunity for the entire social care sector to have their say.”



“I think one of the most positive developments that came from the event was the decision of all three member bodies within SCI to endorse the decision to form a limited company. This will give SCI a very strong footing in terms of professionally representing the social care sector. Social Care Managers, Social Care Workers and Social Care Educators will become members of Social Care Ireland but they will also become a member of a SCI special interest group, thus keeping their professional identity. We hope to be in a position to offer our members Professional Indemnity insurance inclusive of Fitness to Practice. All professionals registered with the Regulator, CORU, are subject to fitness to practice.”


On Father Peter McVerry:

“As Social Care in Ireland is moving towards professionalism, Father Peter McVerry warned of the dangers of becoming too professional. His address was very moving and thought-provoking. He spoke of the importance of caring, and given that we are all working in the care profession, it’s hugely important to retain a focus on the relationships with young people.  Father McVerry spoke of how he opened his first hostel 35 years ago and how he referred to that period of helping people as the best time of his life. By his own admission, the hostel would have been shut down after an hour by today’s standards. He has suggested that the more attention we give to paperwork, offices and writing reports, the less attention we give to the young people in our care and that a healthy balance should be found. He also warned of the risks of inadequate aftercare and warned not to compartmentalise aftercare. As a keynote speaker, he was very informative, very factual and very human.”


CPD Portfolio

“We launched the CPD Portfolio at the conference and it was very well received by members. It is aimed at preparing social care workers for the CPD requirements of the Social Care Registration Board. We have spent a lot of time beating the drum about Continuous Professional Development but life often gets in the way preventing us actually undertaking CPD. This portfolio provides a useful template for SCWs to follow in attaining the sixty CPD points over a two years period. The entire policy and portfolio is available on the website, Social Care Ireland are also planning to provide an online recording facility of CPD activity for its members.”

Social Care Ireland 2015 annual conference


Social Care Ireland’s 2015 annual conference took place in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sligo last week, with the theme of this year’s conference being “Building Relationships and Breaking Barriers”. The conference took place on the 24th, 25th and 26th March 2015 and organisers have called it a huge success, with 180 delegate packs being handed out.


The conference was formally opened on Tuesday evening by Minister Kathleen Lynch, followed by addresses from keynote speakers Father Peter McVerry of the Peter McVerry Trust and Gordon Jeyes of Tusla. No doubt relationships were built and barriers were broken during the evening’s entertainment when delegates and organisers alike relaxed, networked and got to know each other.


The President of Social Care Ireland Carlos Kelly addressed the enthusiastic delegates on the Wednesday morning, followed by Social Care Ireland’s CPD officer Catherine Byrne and Dr Pamela Trevithick of Buckinghamshire New University in the UK. Delegates were then free to attend one of the numerous workshops scheduled.


Vivian Geurin of the Probation Service, Meitheal Coordinator Marie Crawley, Dr. Sinead Reynolds, of the Assessment Consultation and Therapy Service (ACTS), spoke to a large crowd of eager social care workers and students on Wednesday and Thursday and delegates were once again choosing which workshop they would attend throughout the day. The conference closed and delegates left, presumably looking forward to next year’s event. A wine reception and a gala dinner accompanied the launch of the organisation’s CPD portfolio.


Over the course of the three days, there were twelve workshops covering a variety of issues scheduled with an impressive forty one speakers, not including the seven keynote speakers. With the launch of the CPD portfolio and the three organisations within SCI endorsing the decision to amalgamate, the future of SCI is very bright indeed. Watch this space.

'Anti-social children' named at meeting on crime


A list with the names and addresses of a number of children accused of anti-social behaviour was circulated at a community meeting to discuss criminal activity.


The document - which was circulated at a meeting of 60 residents at the Fettercairn Community Centre in Tallaght, Dublin - contained the names of 15 boys, aged from 13 to 18 years, and their addresses.


Many parents of those named on the list denied their sons were involved in any anti-social or criminal behaviour and said they now fear they will be targeted by vigilantes.


One mother whose son's name was on the list said her family were now "living in fear". "We have been told we will be burned out of our house, and that kids will be dragged into vans. We are now living in fear," she said.


Another parent said: "It is shocking to think that anyone could do this, putting the names of children on a list and circulating it saying they are criminals. My son's name should not be on that list, but now he has been branded in the community."



The meeting last Wednesday was organised by Fianna Fáil. The party last night distanced itself from the development and said it did not know who circulated the typed sheets.


The party's justice spokesman, Niall Collins, who hosted the meeting, said he did not have a "clue" where the list came from and said he did not know any of the teenagers named.


The Limerick TD said if he was given the list he would have passed it on to gardaí.


"What I advised people at the meeting is if they have issues, they need to bring it to the attention of gardaí through proper channels and they need to document it as well," he said.


"The community needs to engage with the gardaí. It's a two-way process," he added.


A manager in the centre who spotted the lists destroyed them when they were found, but it is unclear how many people may have picked one up or seen it elsewhere.


The gathering was held to discuss burglaries and drug-related crime, and residents raised concerns about anti-social behaviour, break-ins and vandalism.


At the often-heated meeting, residents were critical of what they saw as a failure by politicians and gardaí to tackle anti-social behaviour.


One mother, whose son was on the list, said: "Yes, people are concerned about crime and anti-social behaviour in the area, and they are right to be, but this list is the wrong way to go about solving it.


"The local sergeant has told me that they are aware of reports of older teens in the area preying on the younger ones to deliver drugs and things for them.


"They say they will burn their mother's cars if they don't do it, but then if the younger ones do what the older ones tell them out of fear, then they are asked to keep doing it, and then the next thing is they are on a list like this and there are vigilantes at the door," she added.


Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said parties should be "very careful" not to name people at public meetings.


"Any of these type of things need to go to gardaí - they are the only appropriate people to investigate issues of anti-social behaviour," he said.


One parent called for CCTV footage to be reviewed to identify who circulated the list.

Appeal to trace missing Dublin teenager


An appeal has been issued to find 16-year-old Daniel Murphy who is missing from Dublin.


Daniel was last seen on Decies Road, Ballyfermot at around 1am last Sunday.


He is described as being 1.70m (5' 7") tall, weighing 57kg with black hair and blue eyes.


When last seen he was wearing navy blue tracksuit bottoms, a blue top with "Gryllis" displayed on it and white runners.


He is known to frequent the Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Finglas areas.


Anyone with information is asked to contact Ronanstown Garda Station on 01-6667700, the Garda Confidential Telephone Line on 1800-666-111 or any garda station.

Teenage girl (13) has bag pulled over head by man in latest abduction bid in Dublin


A teenage girl had a plastic bag pulled over her head in a terrifying attack where she was targeted by a man as she was jogging in a west-Dublin neighbourhood.


The girl, believed to be 13, was out running in Clonsilla, training for her school athletics team, when the unknown assailant struck in broad daylight.


She was approached from behind by the man who pulled the bag over her head. A struggle ensued and the girl managed to escape unharmed.


The sinister incident occurred at Manorfields Drive Road beside the Ravenwood estate on Monday at about 3pm.


It is the third "suspicious approach" of a child in the Clonsilla area in the last two weeks.


Local councillor David McGuinness said the community is "on alert" over the incidents.


"The community want to see anybody who is involved in something of this nature to be brought in for questioning," he said.


"Anyone who would attack a young girl like that is just a scumbag," Mr McGuinness added, referring to Monday's incident.


After the attack the victim made her way back to the Colaiste Pobail Setanta and alerted school staff.


Gardai were called and five units immediately rushed to the scene, but there was no sign of the attacker.


The school sent out a message warning parents to be extra vigilant.


"Please do not allow students to walk alone in the area. There was a potential incident in the area after school today," the message read.


A garda spokesperson confirmed that there was a "suspicious approach" made on a child and that the incident is being investigated.


Previously, on Thursday, March 12, a girl from the Scoil Mhuire Senior School was allegedly approached at Mount Sycamore Green by a man in a red car at approximately 4pm.


Unlike this week's incident the perpetrator in that case did not come into physical contact with the child.


An alert message was also sent out to parents on that occasion.


"Following an incident in the Clonsilla area last night where a male stranger in a red car approached a pupil of our school, we are asking parents to be vigilant with regard to child safety at all times," it read.


"The gardai in Blanchardstown are dealing with the incident and taking the necessary precautions," it added.




Then on Wednesday, March 18, two schoolgirls were approached at night time by two men in a black car.


The incident happened at approximately 8.30pm as the teens walked on the Hartstown Road.


The local school, Hartstown Community College - where the girls are students - also issued a warning advising parents to speak with their children about safety.


No direct link has as of yet been established between the incidents and no arrests have yet been made in relation to any of the three suspicious approaches.

Children with Down syndrome granted extra teaching hours


Children with Down syndrome have been granted additional teaching hours by the Department of Education, following a long campaign by parents.


Announcing the move, the department said the supports were being granted in recognition of the fact that children with Down syndrome experienced a cluster of difficulties relating to the condition.


The decision has been welcomed by parents.

Until now many children with Down syndrome were granted no dedicated additional teaching hours to help them deal with the specific difficulties they encountered.


Parents and groups representing them argued that this was necessary and that some children with Down syndrome were being discriminated against as a result.


The Department of Education has now agreed to give all children with the condition an extra two-and-a-half hours of resource teaching per week.


This is pending the overhauling of special needs provision and the introduction of a new model.


Parents told RTÉ News that they are happy with the move.


They say they are giving the news a cautious welcome and look forward to the revision of the entire system of special needs support.

Teenage girl (17) missing from home for over a week


A 17-year-old girl has been reported missing from her home in Co Wicklow.


Megan Larkin, from Bray, was last seen on the afternoon of Sunday, March 15.


At approximately 430pm, the teenager was spotted on New Court Road in Bray carrying a white schoolbag and a black handbag.


When last seen, Megan was wearing a blue jacket, black leggings, and white high top runners.


Megan has been described of being approximately 162cm in height with a slim build.


She has blue eyes and long brown hair. She also has an eyebrow piercing.


Megan is known to frequent the Tallaght area and Dublin city centre.


Gardaí are asking anyone with any information to contact Bray Garda station on 01 - 6665300, The Garda Confidential Line on 1800-666-111, or any Garda station.

No plans to ban vending machines from secondary schools, despite obesity levels


Vending machines will not be banned from secondary schools here despite fresh opposition from the HSE and campaigners.


The Sunday Independent reports that the Department of Education has ignored new calls to remove the machines, as part of ongoing efforts to stem childhood obesity.


Recent figures from the World Health Organisation which show Ireland has the highest rate of obesity among EU member states for young children.


This week the HSE released a statement supporting a ban on junk food in school vending machines and supporting fast-food exclusion zones around schools.


A spokeswoman for the HSE said: "This is a matter for the Department of Education and Skills, however, the HSE would welcome a ban on junk food in school vending machines."


About 30% of schools have a vending machine or school shop which generally sells unhealthy food.


However, The Department of Education said there were no plans to ban the use of vending machines in secondary schools, adding that schools' efforts must be complemented by parents and the wider community.

No parking permits for hospital staff who don’t wash hands


Seven public acute hospitals get letters from Hiqa warning about poor hygiene practices

Hospitals are getting tough on staff who do not wash their hands properly by imposing sanctions and penalties.

Connolly Hospital in Dublin said it will withhold parking permits from staff who refuse to take part in hand-hygiene training.

Junior doctors on rotation from Cork University Hospital to Bantry General Hospital must complete an online hand-hygiene course or a session with the infection-control nurse and present the certificate to the hospital before starting a placement there.

An overview report of Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) unannounced hygiene inspections in public hospitals shows while many hospitals meet national infection prevention and control standards, all hospitals could do more to improve hand hygiene and environmental cleanliness.

The inspection team observed various examples in hospitals where efforts were made to promote hand hygiene and improve compliance among staff.

Hiqa carried out unannounced inspections at 49 out of 50 public acute hospitals between February 2014 and January 2015.

Parking permits

Hiqa inspectors noted Connolly Hospital in Dublin would withhold parking permits if staff did not complete hand-hygiene training.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said: “In 2015 Connolly Hospital has commenced implementing a pilot hand-hygiene improvement initiative. Valid parking permits for 2016 will be given to staff who complete their mandatory hand-hygiene training.”

Further study

Inspectors noted St James’s Hospital in Dublin prevented staff from applying for further study if they had not been trained in hand hygiene.

Meanwhile, at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan a group text message was sent to non-consultant hospital doctors informing them of the “bare below the elbow” policy, and that handbags were not allowed to be worn in clinical areas.

Inspectors noted one hospital had taken a “zero tolerance” approach to hand-hygiene non-compliance amongst staff.

A penalty-point system was put in place at Mallow General Hospital in Cork whereby staff would receive a penalty point for hand-hygiene non-compliances, while staff who got five points would be required to reattend hand-hygiene training.

Seven public acute hospitals received letters from the Hiqa warning of poor hygiene practices.

Hiqa found problems with environment and facilities management, hand hygiene, communicable disease control and unclean patient equipment.

The report found a need for better internal checks on hand-hygiene practice in some hospitals.

Care home staff member sexually abused woman with severe disabilities


A care facility for people with severe disabilities cleared a staff member of any wrong doing and allowed him return to work before his conviction for sexually abusing a woman with the mental age of three, a court heard today.

The 68-year-old staff member, who was a bus driver for the facility, was caught molesting the victim and making her touch him.

He later denied the charge and claimed he was merely “gesticulating” during conversation.

Today he was sentenced to four years in prison with the final two and a half years suspended on strict conditions including that he have no further contact with the victim.

The man and the Dublin-based care facility cannot be identified to protect the anonymity of the victim.

During the sentence hearing the man’s defence counsel said that after the incident an internal investigation by the care home absolved him of any wrong-doing and cleared him to come back to work, transporting developmentally impaired clients.

John Aylmer SC, defending, said his client, who was on paid leave at the time, declined the offer to return and retired when he reached 65 years old.

The investigating garda told the court she had no knowledge of this.

The man stood trial last January at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and was convicted by a jury after pleading not guilty to sexual assault in the care facility on January 10, 2011.

Garda Ciara Doyle told prosecuting counsel Fiona Murphy BL that the 39-year-old victim has the intellectual capabilities of a three-year-old and is completely dependent on others for her care.

On the day of the incident, the bus driver was in the kitchen of the facility with the victim and several members of staff. The staff members left the room for various reasons, leaving the driver alone with the woman.

When one of the care staff returned to the kitchen she saw the man with his hands on the victim’s breasts. She also saw that her hand was in the man’s trousers.

The driver said “what am I doing” and the care worker said: “Do you think I’m a f**king eejit? Standing there with your fly open and a hard-on?”

The man pleaded with the staff member to think of his wife and family and said she will “ruin him”.

She called him a “f**king pig” and said she had nothing more to say to him. He later left the facility, saying he was “retiring”.

Gardaí were alerted and the bus driver and arrested and interviewed. He denied any wrongdoing and said he was “gesticulating” during conversation.

In mitigation Mr Aylmer said his client continues to deny the charge but does not intend to appeal his conviction.

Counsel said it is clear that the “victim is pretty well oblivious to all this thankfully” and that the real victims are her family.

He submitted that the absence of violence in the offence and the fact that it lasted only a short period of time are mitigating factors in the case.

Counsel added that his client has an excellent work record and the support of a large family who rely on him.

Judge Catherine Murphy took this into account but said she had no choice but to impose a jail term given the abuse of an “incredibly vulnerable victim”.

School issues warning to parents after two schoolgirls allegedly 'approached' by men


A second school in Dublin 15 has issued a warning to parents after two schoolgirls were allegedly approached by two men in a black car last week.

Hartstown Community College, a secondary school, has asked parents to speak with their children about safety after the suspicious incident.


The approach happened at approximately 8.30pm last Wednesday as the teens walked on the Hartstown Road.


The group message is the second to be sent to parents in the area within just a week though it is not known if the two are connected.


Last Wednesday, a man allegedly approached a young pupil at Scoil Mhuire Senior School in Clonsilla at around 4pm prompting school authorities to caution parents.


Dublin West Cllr David McGuinness told the Herald that people in the area are concerned about the number of incidents in the Blanchardstown area - with some reports that school goers have been approached with knives in separate incidents.


"It's hard to say what is going on but there are concerns we all have locally," he said.


"It is well known that teenagers now have phones, tablets or jewellery on them as they go to and from school."


He said that the school was likely being "ultra-cautious" on foot of last week's incident.


Parents should speak with their children about being approached by strangers, the importance of staying in groups and when to raise the alarm, he pointed out.


"This is the second time in Dublin 15 in one week that this type of messaging system has been used to warn parents about safety," he said.


"It highlights the fact that there are some people in our community who have no intention of contributing positively to it. It has raised alarm bells as this certainly seems to be an issue here as to whether this is a trend that gardai need to be investigating."


A garda spokesperson confirmed that Blanchardstown gardai are investigating a "suspicious approach".

Guardians are vitally important to protect the interests of children in care


We urgently need a proper regulatory structure and an independent state Guardian agency with its own funding

Recent media coverage regarding Garda vetting of guardians Ad Litem (court-appointed guardians) again highlights the lack of a proper regulatory structure for one of the most important professions dealing with vulnerable children in state care. In care proceedings, the guardian Ad Litem advises the court of the child’s views and provides an objective professional opinion as to what course of action is in the child’s best interests.

Whilst it is of concern that the exact number of guardians operating in the state is unknown, it is important in any evaluation of the service to maintain a sense of balance and perspective.

It is not true as some commentators have suggested that anyone can become a guardian, and court applications for the appointment of a guardian are often accompanied by intense scrutiny of the guardian’s credentials and suitability (including Garda vetting) by the judge and the parties to the proceedings.

Another headline grabbing aspect of the guardian’s work is that of fees. The general view being that costs are out of control and do not represent value for money. However, quoting global figures of costs tells us little about the quantity or quality of the work undertaken by the guardian. A significant aspect of guardian fees refers to legal representation. It is not uncommon for proceedings to be extended due to difficulties in developing adequate care plans for children and the securing of necessary professional assessment and therapeutic services. Frequently the court of its own volition may adjourn or set review dates to ensure care plans are fully implemented. Naturally, this will add to costs.


Of greater concern however is that the fees of the “independent” guardian are discharged by the Child and Family Agency, the instigators of all court care applications. This may give rise to a mistaken but understandable perception on the part of parents involved in proceedings that the guardian is not really independent at all. The fact that guardian fees come from limited existing child care budgets highlights the urgent need for an independent state guardian agency with its own funding. This would also provide a structure of accountability and support for guardians.

The introduction of the guardian into Irish law provided a degree of “window dressing”, allowing Ireland to be seen as progressive and responsive to European expectations regarding the rights of children. However, the 1991 Child Care Act is silent as to the qualification, role and duties of the guardian. Frequently, guardians have tended to be social workers who have developed extensive expertise in child protection over many years either in Ireland or the UK.

The advent of the guardian has significantly changed the landscape of child care proceedings.

Previously there was little independent analysis of child care best practice in court, the conventional wisdom being that the Health Boards of the time were the experts and knew best. The guardian brought a new level of professional evaluation to critically assess care plans and reports and identify deficiencies in service provision.

Valuable service

Whilst the service developed in an ad hoc fashion, the guardian Ad Litem has consistently provided a valuable service to the Irish courts and contributed significantly to the development of improved and more consistent planning for children in care. The guardian’s independence is also an advantage, being free of agency restrictions and day to day case management responsibility.

Moving from case to case, the guardian gains important knowledge regarding uniformity of service provision nationally and useful insight into how similar problems are tackled in different locations. Unfortunately, over recent years court proceedings have become more adversarial, and as serious shortcomings in services are highlighted, an element of ambivalence and defensiveness towards guardians can sometimes be detected.

A common criticism is that guardians operate from an unrealistic “ideal world” perspective. This may be the understandable reaction of a social work profession, seriously under resourced and unsupported, unfairly blamed for service deficiencies not of their making and outside of their control. (Recent revelations in the UK about the “Baby P” enquiry suggest they may have reason to feel aggrieved).

Conversely, however, many social workers welcome the appointment of the guardian, recognising such intervention as a valuable aid in securing necessary services for the children they work with.

The establishment of a properly funded guardian Ad Litem agency in Ireland is long overdue. Fortunately, a valuable blueprint already exists in the 2009 CAAB report Giving a voice to Children’s Wishes, Feelings & Interests. However, rather than simply seeking to regulate or “control” the guardian service in the negative sense some commentators suggest, what is required is a truly independent, properly resourced service which actively supports the profession in advancing the government’s stated priority of ensuring the welfare needs of the country’s most vulnerable children. Eugene McCarthy is a barrister working in child and family law. Previously he was a social worker and guardian.

Young girls abused for online audience rescued in Manila


Ireland is one of just eight countries yet to fully adopt EU rules on combatting child sex abuse and pornography, more than a year after the passing of a deadline.


The European Parliament urged countries to work together to combat the growing ‘darknet’ and help protect children, warning the latest horrific reports should serve as a wake-up call.


Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald held a round-table meeting with the ICT industry, social media and the gardaí last month on tackling online child sexual exploitation.


She recently published heads of a new Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill that would introduce wide-ranging reforms, including measures to protect children from sexual exploitation.


It will aim to protect young people against grooming in person and online. “The new offences also reflect the reality that predatory sexual activity to target children can now take place online, for example via social media,” she said.


However, Nathalie Griesbeck, one of the MEPs who worked on the report that came before the European Parliament, said it was a scandal so many member states had not fully brought the legislation into law.


“Online sexual abuse and child pornography are a monstrous, growing phenomenon and constitute serious violations of fundamental rights”, she said.


Her report said more than 80% of the victims are under ten, and 10% of victims of child sex abuse on the internet are under the age of two.


She said a comprehensive approach was needed with all concerned working together to combat the sexual exploitation of children, and child abuse images.

Paedophile sites stealing children's 'sexting' images


Explicit 'sexting' photos taken by Irish children are ending up on websites viewed by paedophiles.

'Sexting' or 'sex texting' is sending personal sexually explicit images or videos via technology.


Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said photos of this nature have been stolen and published on websites used by paedophiles.


"We know that some of the images have been stolen online - that is a reality," she told the Irish Independent.


She was speaking after a new report by the UK watchdog Internet Watch Foundation and the technology giant Microsoft said they identified nearly 4,000 such images and videos in a snapshot covering three months last autumn.


Of those, 667 featured children who were 15 or younger, and of those 286 were thought to be under 10.


The explicit pictures are often taken by girls at the request of boys within their social group, and are forwarded on by mobile phone. But unknown to these young teens, these photographs may end up being passed around in school - as well as being shared and broadcast on social networking sites such as Facebook, Flickr and Imgur.


Images posted on the internet have later re-appeared on so-called 'parasite' websites after being hacked or copied.


Ms O'Malley-Dunlop said that pictures of Irish children have been taken from Facebook and have appeared on pornographic sites.


She said a majority of teenagers were aware that explicit images were being circulated on the web, but were being lulled into a false sense of security.


She warned the Department of Education had a "huge role" to play in ensuring children were adequately educated on the risks of this craze.


She also said the belief held by young people that Snapchat images "disappear forever" is no longer true, because users have discovered ways to save these messages.


A screengrab can be taken, copying the image, or the phone's screen photographed while it is displayed - and it can then be uploaded to the internet and widely shared.


"Kids in school are tomorrow's potential perpetrators - and victims - of this type of behaviour.


"They need to be appropriately informed about consent, because we don't have a definition of consent in Irish law.


"We're calling for it to be included in the new Sexual Offences bill," Ms O'Malley- Dunlop said.

Half of young Irish may have mental disorder


More than half young people may have a form of mental health disorder before the age of 25, according to a new study.

The conditions are mostly mood disorders, anxiety, abnormal eating habits and alcohol abuse, said the research published in the 'Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine'.


The study involved a representative sample of 212 young people from schools in north Dublin, interviewing them at aged 12-15 and following them up when they were 19-24 years old.


The research found 28.4pc had mood disorders, 27.1pc suffered anxiety and 22.7pc had substance abuse disorders. One in four had more than one problem.


Personality disorders were found in 2.3pc while lifetime prevalence of binge-drinking was 75pc and cannabis use 65pc.


The results underline the importance of early intervention in order try to give young people the best chance to get on with having full, productive and normal lives, said the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland.




Other research shows that the family is central to the young person's mental health.


The recession may have played an important role as unemployment and debt have been linked to poor mental health, they added. The majority of mental illness begins in childhood and adolescence.


Psychiatrist Prof Mary Cannon of Beaumont Hospital said: "It is time to start focussing on providing specialised services catering for the need of young people particularly during the transition from adolescence into young adulthood."

No treatment scheme for eating disorder sufferers


People with eating disorders are not entitled to the same funding for treatment programmes granted to those who suffer from addictions to drugs or alcohol, the HSE has said.


The revelation comes as a person with an eating disorder shared their battle to pay for treatment in a letter to the Irish Examiner.


The sufferer hits out at the State’s “discriminatory policy” towards people with eating disorders, after they hit “rock bottom” at Christmas and sought a residential recovery programme at a treatment centre.


“I was informed that if my addiction took the form of mis-use of alcohol or drugs there is funding available via HSE to receive treatment. For eating disorder treatment no such funding is available. Having already spent at least three times this amount on treatment over the years, I do not have access to €8,000. So, what are my options now?” the letter said. A HSE spokesperson said there is no funding in place to assist people with eating disorders to take part in residential recovery programmes.


“Referrals for children, adolescents and adults with eating disorders should be made to the relevant general Child and Adult Mental Health Services/ Adult Community Mental Health Teams, where it may be possible for these multi-disciplinary teams to manage uncomplicated cases on a community basis to deliver evidence-based interventions in the most appropriate community setting,” the HSE said.


“While the HSE does not have residential treatment programme for individuals, it does recognise that because of the complexity of some cases, an in-patient stay may be required in the overall care and treatment.


“Individuals requiring an in-patient service are facilitated in either the Child and Adult Mental Health Services or an adult in-patient unit which are closely associated with general hospitals to ensure easy access to the full range of medical diagnostic and treatments, including dietitians and other relevant personnel which are essential for comprehensively dealing with eating disorders.”


The letter’s author says that eating disorders are addictions just as harmful as alcohol or drug addictions.


“The fundamental issue here is not my personal situation but, why this discriminatory policy is in place in Ireland today? Do we have an understanding of how the silent killer of eating disorders is ruining lives everyday? Are we aware that eating disorders represent the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses?”

Childcare burden three times higher in Ireland


Minister for Children James Reilly has said he is a “really strong supporter” of paid paternity leave and looked forward to a time when mothers and fathers could get equal entitlements.

However, he added that the State’s “constrained” financial position meant such a situation could not be brought about in the short term.

“I think absolutely that there should be paternity leave, and I’d be a really strong supporter of that,” he said. “And I really believe that many more men . . . If it were paid and the options were there for people, they would exercise it.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton told her party conference at the weekend that steps enabling the Government to introduce two weeks’ paid paternity leave would be set out by the end of the year.

Asked if he thought fathers should be entitled to more than two weeks’ paid leave, Dr Reilly said: “Let’s not pretend that we can solve all the problems at one fell swoop. I mean, we have to look, ideally, that you would have equal entitlement over an equal period of time for both fathers and mothers. But in a constrained financial situation we may have to walk a bit more slowly before we can run at the pace we’d like to be running at.”

He was speaking after taking part in a conference on childcare organised by the European Commission Representation in Ireland to mark International Women’s Day.

In his address to the conference, Dr Reilly said the Government was committed to introducing a second free pre-school year “as resources allow”.

He said he had asked an inter-departmental group to examine how the Coalition could promote “a more balanced sharing of parenting”.

“Dads should have as much opportunity to be active, involved parents as women do,” he said. “Mums should have as much opportunity to combine raising a family with activities outside the home as men do.”

Fast track for laws to ban shock therapy


The Government is to fast-track legislation ending the practice of administering electric shock therapy to mental health patients even if that patient has capacity and refuses the treatment.


A call to end the practice is just one of 165 recommendations in an expert group review of the Mental Health Act 2001 which the Department of Health published last night.


The expert group also recommends that it should no longer be possible to detain someone purely because he or she has a significant intellectual disability and that children aged 16-17 years should be presumed to have capacity to consent to or refuse admission and treatment.


The group says section 59 of the 2001 act should be amended to make it no longer be possible for electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) to be administered to a patient who has capacity and does not consent to it. At present consent is not required even if the patient has capacity.


ECT is a procedure in which electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. It has been argued that it seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses.


The expert group also “the first possible opportunity should be taken to effect this change in the context of any future miscellaneous health bill”.


“Where the patient is unable to give consent but a decision-making representative appointed legally under capacity legislation for the person gives that consent on the patient’s behalf, then ECT may proceed,” it says.


“Where a patient does not have capacity and a decision-making representative does not give consent to ECT, such treatment may only take place where it is required as a lifesaving treatment, for a patient where there is a threat to the lives of others or where the condition is otherwise treatment resistant, and such ECT may then only be administered subject to approval by a Mental Health Review Board which must convene within three days of the decision being taken.”


In response to that recommendation, Mental Health Minister Kathleen Lynch said that while she had instructed her officials to draw up a roadmap for legislating for a number of the recommendations from the expert group, she intended to deal separately “and within a shorter timeframe” with a change in legislation regarding the use of ECT.


“I believe that a refusal of ECT treatment where a person has capacity must be respected, and I will bring forward early proposals in this regard,” she said.


The Department of Health said the bulk of the expert group’s recommendations related to changes to mental health legislation


“In particular, the changes seek to move away from the often paternalistic interpretation of the existing legislation, to one where insofar as is possible, the individual has the final say in what he/she deems to be in his/her best interests and receives the best possible quality of service required to attain the highest standard of mental health,” it said.

New Hiqa standards increase support of children in State care


Best-practice guidelines promote child-centred approach and protect children’s rights

The Health and Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) has published new standards designed to ensure children in State care are safe and get adequate support.

The document sets out best-practice guidelines for State-run bodies or institutions charged with the care of children.

According to the health watchdog, the aim of the new National Standards for Special Care Units is to promote a child-centred approach in service provision, to protect children’s rights and to make sure their voices are heard where care is being provided.

Specifically, it seeks to guarantee that children are helped to access social workers, that a culture of transparency is encouraged when dealing with child-care complaints, and that children would ideally be present when their rooms are searched and informed about why it is happening.

“The overall aim of these care units is to provide focused care in a highly supportive environment, stabilising behaviour so that children are enabled to return to non-secure care within a short period of time,” said Marie Kehoe-O’Sullivan, Director of Safety and Quality Improvement at Hiqa.

“Children are only placed in special care units when such a placement is considered necessary for their care and welfare.

“These are vulnerable children and these units have an important role to play in promoting and safeguarding the rights of the children in their care,” she said.

The standards were developed following public consultation and approved by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly. They will replace the previous standards instituted in 2001.

The new standards follow a series of reports which were highly critical of the care of children in State-run institutions over recent years. There are over 6,000 children in State care.

Findings released by the National Review Panel in 2013 revealed that almost 40 children and young people died while in State care in 2011 and 2012.

Last July, review panel chairperson Dr Helen Buckley warned that more children could die needlessly if assurances of reform weren’t carried through, while The Irish Times last September reported a backlog of 9,000 cases of abuse, neglect or welfare concerns over children at risk without a social worker.

Spike in muggings in city linked to heroin addicts


A spike in muggings and pickpocketing in Cork City last summer was primarily due to heroin addicts trying to feed their habit.

A meeting of the Cork City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) yesterday heard Chief Superintendent Michael Finn say that there was a noticeable increase in heroin use in the city centre last year, but it seems to have stabilised recently.

The heroin problem is to be aired at a meeting of the JPC, likely to be held in late April or early May to which the public will be invited.

It has been estimated by gardaí and health officials that there are now 500 heroin addicts in the city, only half of whom are getting help, or using the free needle exchange programme.

The senior garda made his comments following a number of questions from councillors and TDs, who are members of the JPC, at the meeting which took place in City Hall.

Chief Supt Finn said the number of heroin users had increased during 2014, but maintained gardaí “had kept a lid on things” with the help of agencies including the Drugs Taskforce and HSE.

He said Cork had been luckier than most urban areas which saw the impact of heroin several years ago.

Crime statistics showed robbery from the person had grown by 53% last year and some of the victims were tourists.

JPC chairman and Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary said the public meeting on heroin addiction would be publicised when an exact date and venue had been decided.

“We will have a number of agencies present including representatives from the National Drugs Enforcement Agency, youth workers, Drugs Taskforce, HSE, and other intervention services,” Mr O’Leary said.

“This meeting will be open to the public and if there are people out there who want to raise issues about heroin use then we want them to come along to it,” he said.

Chief Supt Finn said that gardaí were working closely with the HSE and other agencies to combat the scourge of heroin.

The price of heroin has fallen in recent years, but a full-blown user probably spends up to €100 daily to feed their habit, prompting them to rob from people, especially at night around the city centre.

The heroin explosion had came late to Cork and estimates had pointed to no more than 20 heroin addicts in the city 10 years ago.

Three quarters of the addicts are male and range in age from their 20s to their 50s. Around 95% are under 30. They normally start by smoking the drug, but after a while don’t get the same buzz from it and start injecting intravenously. 

The sight of discarded needles is commonplace in toilets and on streets and quays in certain parts of Cork. Around 250 addicts are currently on a methadone treatment programme. 

Meanwhile, the needle exchange programme has led to a significant drop in the transmission of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

Sky Sports presenter Charlie Webster opens up about being sexually abused as a teen


Sky Sports presenter Charlie Webster has opened up about her own experiences with sexual abuse at a sports conference.


The 32-year-old broadcaster, who has been dating Irish actor Allen Leech for nearly a year, was a guest speaker at the Sports Respects Your Rights conference in Vienna.


And she said that the only way to truly convey her message is to speak her about being abused as a teenager by an athletics coach.


"I hate statistics; I'm really not a numbers person but I'm kind of getting annoyed with the phrase 'one in five'. One in five women in the UK have experienced sexual abuse," she said in a special Glamour magazine news feature ahead of her talk onThursday. "One in five women in Europe have experience sexual abuse. One in five women in the world has experienced sexual abuse.


"If you look around you now, or the next time you head out, and realise how many people 'one in five' actually is, it really hits you - that is a hell of a lot of women who have been sexually abused, or will be."


Webster explained that in order to deviate from statistics, it's important to remember the people being affected by abuse.


"I realised I had to tell my story," she said. "I've spoken before about the sexual abuse I experienced as a teenager by my running coach. My experience shows how easily sexual abuse can happen; how people in a position of trust can use their authority to manipulate.


"It shows how hard it is to utter a single word to anyone. When something bad happens, your instinct is to protect yourself, and sometimes you surround yourself in denial."


She has previously spoken out about the abuse, which happened when she was 15. Her coach was sentenced to a 10-year prison sentence and has been put on the sex offender's register for the rest of his life.

Smoking 'doesn't relieve your stress - it increases it'


Ever felt like a cigarette was giving you much-needed relief from stress? Well, a new study shows that far from relieving stress, smoking can increase it.


Smokers have a 70% increased risk of anxiety and depression compared with non-smokers, debunking the belief that smoking helps with stress, the researchers said.


The report, which surveyed nearly 6,500 people over the age of 40, found that 18.3% of smokers reported suffering depression and anxiety compared with 10% of non-smokers and 11.3% of ex-smokers.


Dr Mike Knapton, British Heart Foundation’s associate medical director, said: “There is a belief from many smokers that smoking reduces anxiety and stress, which is in turn causing many smokers to put off quitting.


“Yet, instead of aiding people to relax, smoking increases anxiety and tension. When smokers light up, the feeling of reduced stress or relaxation is temporary and is soon replaced by withdrawal symptoms and cravings. While smoking temporarily reduces these cravings and feelings of withdrawal – which are similar to feeling anxious or stressed – it does not reduce or treat the underlying causes of stress.


“Dispelling the myth that smoking is a stress reliever should be another motivating reason to finally kick the habit this No Smoking Day. We’re asking smokers to mark Wednesday 11 March on their calendars and join the nearly one million people who are expected to use the day to quit.”


Nearly one in five UK adults smoke, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and a variety of cancers.

EU report on online child sex abuse ‘a wake up call’


In January 2014, a man was arrested as part of a major investigation into online child sexual exploitation. The individual had more than 80 social networking profiles, email addresses, and video chat accounts to sexually abuse children via webcams on computers.


Once victims had sent him an indecent image or video of themselves, he started threatening them and involving them in far more serious abuse.


The youngest child was an eight-year-old girl — she was forced to involve other children in the abuse. The suspect pretended to be a 13-year-old boy.


His case was one of a number highlighted in a report on sexual exploitation of children online, published by Europol, the EU police agency.


The suspect also coerced adult men into performing a sexual act via webcam which was recorded and used against them unless they paid money.


The report said it was not known if the indecent materials provided by the children were commercially distributed online, but added: “Bearing in mind the profile of the suspect, this possibility cannot be excluded”.


In a second case, a 17-year-old girl was a victim of extortion which started when her boyfriend took a photo of her breasts with his mobile phone, and shared it with his 17-year-old friend.


The latter sent the photo via a social media platform to the victim to inform her he had it, demanding money and threatening her with publishing her photo elsewhere if she refused to pay.


Verbal blackmailing also took place at school. The girl gradually began to give him €10 or €20 over the course of a few months, totalling about €600.

In a third case, a 17-year-old boy in Edinburgh took his own life in July 2013. He had been targeted online by an offender who posed as a teenage girl and with whom he had shared indecent images of himself. The victim was then blackmailed by the offender, demanding money. He was told that if he failed to pay he would post the victim’s naked images on social networking sites.


The report was conducted by the European Financial Coalition against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Online, a coalition of experts from law enforcement, the private sector, and civil society.


It said it was concerned at the emergence of an online market selling sexualised images either extorted from children or taken from photographs and videos voluntarily uploaded by minors on social network sites.


It said the development of a profit motive, in addition to a sexual motive, was a new development in what was increasingly a sophisticated and hard-to-detect online crime. Both individuals and large-scale enterprises were involved.


It warned parents that images they post online of their own children can and are being used by people for sexual purposes — including on social network profiles such as “the most sexy 4, 5, 6 years old”.


It also said there was large-scale sexual extortion, which combined blackmail with webcam scamming, which usually took place on dating sites, in chat rooms or social networks. It said there was some evidence pointing to a ring of African and Southeast Asian networks targeting victims throughout Europe, often operating on “an almost industrial scale from call-centre type offices”.


Elsewhere, the report documented the threat posed by the live streaming of abuse for payment. The people involved offer homeless children and even their own children for sexual abuse for payment.


Senator Jillian van Turnhout, who has campaigned on tackling child abuse imagery, said the report was “a wake-up call” to legislators, parents, and schools.


“The fact that this area is mutating is very scary and very worrying. You have both large-scale organisations and individuals — down to one classmate to another — engaged in sexual exploitation.


She said her experience with young people was that they act responsibly when real dangers are explained honestly and openly. And she called on parents to be careful about what images of children they post online.


To report child abuse images log onto (part of For details on safe online use see www. CARI, therapy and support for children affected by abuse, can be contacted on 1890 92 4567

New child abuse allegations at small school


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has promised a Dáil report about new allegations of physical and sexual abuse at a small country school.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the abuse was documented in a report by the Children's Ombudsman and happened as recently as 2005/2006. He said he knew that a child who made allegations about the school had written to Mr Kenny.


In the Dáil, Mr Martin called for an independent expert panel to investigate the case at the unnamed school as he said the Ombudsman's report was particularly damning.


He said he was concerned that three separate authorities - the Department of Education, the Health Service Executive and the school board of management - had not responded appropriately to the situation.


"The Ombudsman for Children's report is saying that this was not handled properly by any of the three bodies involved," Mr Martin said.


He said the gardaí now accepted its original investigation was not up to standard and it was being renewed, as fresh allegations were received.


"That was all in 2005/2006, not 50 years ago, 30 years ago, not 20 years ago,'' Mr Martin said.


The Taoiseach said he was aware of the case and added that the issue was being examined by the gardaí, the Departments of Health, Justice and Education, as well as the child protection authority, Tusla, and the parents of the children at the school.


"I'm quite prepared to come back to you when I have more clarity," Mr Kenny said.


He added that the report awaited from Tusla was required before he could make any comment.


"There is no place for this kind of activity in any school or in any home in the country," the Taoiseach said.


Mr Kenny said it was a sensitive case which must be properly investigated and he was aware of the implications of the Ombudsman's report.

‘Hard to sleep in a bed with homeless on street outside’


A Kerry-born nun who spent her life helping people affected by addiction found she could not rest easy in her bed in Dublin last weekend, knowing there were homeless people lying on the ground outside.


Eileen Fitzgerald, aged 78, better known as Sr Consilio, founded Cuan Mhuire, a charitable drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation organisation, in Ireland 50 years ago.


The Sister of Mercy is now on a mission to provide a place where homeless people with drug habits can be enticed to stay and deal with their problems.


“I came into Gardiner Street on Saturday evening and I met three people just right beside our house, shooting up heroin in desperation,” she said.


She stopped to talk to the group and asked them to pray that she would be able to get a place for them.


Sr Consilio said there was no place for homeless people like the ones she met. They needed somewhere where they could be “enticed” to stay and deal with their drug problem.


“There is a lot more to homelessness. If it was only about getting beds, it would be easy enough to settle it,” she said. “I would love to get help to put a place together for the people on the streets who are suffering from addiction,” she said on RTÉ radio yesterday.


Sr Consilio said she had already found somewhere suitable, but needed someone to help her set it up.


“The hardest thing for me going to bed in our house in Gardiner St was knowing there were people lying on the ground outside.”


They needed a place where they could stop taking street drugs and reduce their methadone treatment gradually before being brought to rural-based rehabiliation centres to complete the recovery process, she said.


Sr Consilio said those wanting to work with homeless people would have to love them unconditionally and let them see what beautiful people they really were.


Cuan Mhuire provides a residential programme and a range of other support services for individuals and families impacted by additions and their consequences, including homelessness.


Sr Consilio said it was down to “Our Lady” that Cuan Mhuire has been so successful in finding the goodness in what she described as “wounded people”.


“It is not that I have a greater liking for people who have a problem with drink. I just love people,”she said.


People started coming to the dairy she converted in Athy, Co Kildare because, other than the psychiatric hospital, there was nowhere for them to go if they did not have a lot of money.


She found people helped each other deal with addiction. There were three pubs nearby and each person had to support the other when tempted to visit them.


“They found they could reach out to each other and the love generated among them was the healing power,” said Sr Consilio.

Reilly: foster parents can be rejected if overweight


People who want to foster a child can be turned down if they are too overweight, Children's Minister James Reilly has admitted.

Dr Reilly revealed that the health of an applicant is one of the criteria looked at when assessing a potential foster carer, as is the overall physical ability of a person to care for a child.


"Obesity cannot be ignored as part of the overall health of the applicant and the impact this may have on the experience of a child being placed in their care.


"Significant health issues which may impact on an applicant's ability to care for a child can preclude them from being recommended for approval."


However, this is only one factor of a number that are considered.


"It must be emphasised that what is being examined in the assessment process is the prospective carer's ability to care for a child placed with them and the carer's values, attitudes, life experiences, commitment and flexibility in responding to the need of the individual child," he added.


Dr Reilly was before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, answering Labour TD Ciara Conway, who said she knew of prospective foster parents who were turned down on the basis of their Body Mass Index (BMI).




She asked if he was aware of variations in the regulations and standards governing fostering assessment from region to region.


Dr Reilly admitted the Child and Family Agency is only now finalising a national assessment framework for foster care.


This document should be issued later this month and will mean fostering assessment nationally will be standardised.


Prior to a negative decision being made, an applicant is afforded an opportunity to make a final submission and also has the right of appeal based on a full review of the relevant file and evidence.


There are currently around 6,500 children in state care and the majority of these are fostered.


There is always a shortage of suitable foster carers, particularly in areas of Dublin.


Meanwhile, the committee was told that recruitment of inspectors for pre-schools is ongoing.


Over recent years a number of areas have had no inspector, or an inadequate number.


The aim was to have 49 inspectors in place by early this year. The committee also heard that at the end of November, there were 24,439 files on children recorded as being still open.


Of these, 8,451 were not at the time allocated to a social worker. Among these children, 2,844 were classed as a "high priority".


Emergency cases are dealt with immediately where the child is in danger, it was noted.

Single parent allowance discussed by Oireachtas Committee


The Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection has heard that lone parents transitioning from the One Parent Family Payment to JobSeeker's or other alternatives will be considerably less well off than they were four years ago.

The committee heard that parents working a 20-hour week stand to lose €50 a week.

The committee is hearing testimony from One Family and Spark, groups representing lone parents.

They say the new measures will increase the already high levels of deprivation among lone-parent families.

One Family estimated the deprivation level at 63%.

The One Parent Family Payment is to end for families whose youngest child has turned seven.

The committee heard this will affect up to to 39,000 families this July.

John McKeon, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Protection, said a transitional arrangement for lone parents those with children aged 7-13 meant than no one with a child under 13 would be forced to seek employment.

He said the department was providing information sessions to families affected by the transition and that 11,000 families had already made the transition.

Labour Party TD Brendan Ryan said it seemed that the change was acting as a disincentive to employment.

Independent TD Richard Boyd Barrett said there should be an acknowledgement that this has not been handled correctly.

From 2 July, lone parents with a child aged seven will transfer from the One Parent Family Allowance to Jobseeker's Allowance Transition or the Back to Work Family Dividend.

The reform was introduced by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton nearly three years ago to encourage lone parents into education and employment.

It will not affect a lone parent who is not working as they will transfer to the Jobseeker's Transition payment, but for a lone parent working 20 hours a week on the minimum wage, that person will lose €50 a week.

Fianna Fáil's spokesperson for Social Protection Willie O'Dea described the move as "perverse, at at time when the Labour Party is part of Government, to be cutting the poorest section of our society".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, chair of the Committee on Education and Social Protection Joanna Tuffy said these changes had been long announced and have been phased in over time.

She said the aim was to move lone parents into the workplace and that the childcare needs of seven-year-olds are very different to those of pre-school children.

She said lone parents who are on the minimum wage are entitled to the family income supplement.

She also said the back to work dividend is in place this year and parents can keep €29 a week per child of their social welfare payment if they go back to work.

Unsafe streets: 32 used drug needles lifted from city streets every day


More than 30 needles mainly used for injecting heroin are being found on Dublin city streets every day.

The Herald can today reveal that almost 12,000 needles are taken off the streets annually.


Three separate groups - Dublin City Council (DCC), the Ana Liffey Project and Dublin Town, the body that represents city businesses - are collecting the needles and syringes on both sides of the Liffey.


Last year, two council workers were pricked by the needles while cleaning the city's alleyways and streets.


A total of 4,600 used needles were collected in the north inner city and a further 7,000 were picked up from Parnell Street across to St Stephen's Green in 2014.


The Ana Liffey Drug Project picked up 2,000 used needles, DCC gathered 2,600 and Dublin Town collected 7,000. On average, more than 220 needles a week, or 32 a day, are being recovered.


Tony Duffin, who is the director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, said the issue of disposing of needles used for drugs in the city has to be tackled.


"At this point, all stakeholders are agreed that public injecting is a serious issue in Dublin's city centre, both north and south. Unfortunately, unsafe disposal of injecting paraphernalia is one consequence of this," Mr Duffin.




Richard Guiney, the CEO of Dublin Town, whose organisation picks up needles right across the capital, said that discarded syringes used to be a sight predominantly seen in areas north of the Liffey, but that is no longer the case.


"There's no doubt that drugs are an issue in the city, everybody knows that but what we need is a constructive solution that works for everyone," Mr Guiney told the Herald.


However, the Dublin Town CEO believes that a new approach is needed to tackle the issue which addresses the needs of drug users as well as tourists and workers who travel into the city everyday.


"Vulnerable people need to be looked after. We've looked at solutions all over the world and looked at where various strategies have worked."


Mr Guiney recently travelled to New York to meet with the Time Square Alliance and the commander of the New York Police Department to see how they addressed the drug problem in their city.


"They didn't attribute improvements to a zero-tolerance approach but instead to assertive outreach and a large emphasis on housing-first and this worked very successfully," Mr Guiney said.


As part of the 20-Point Homeless Action Plan, presented by Environment Minister Alan Kelly last December, a number of proposals were set out to deal with the issue of addiction within the homeless community.


One plan was to establish a multi-service centre in the capital, a draft proposal for this is currently being worked on.


Furthermore, following the homeless summit, a high-ranking member of An Garda Siochana and a senior executive in DCC went out on to the streets of Dublin late at night asking rough-sleepers if they needed specific help with an addiction problem.


Today's figures come after Taoiseach Enda Kenny himself came across a pile of used needles, while out with the homeless last December.


"We stopped the Taoiseach from walking on syringes in the Harcourt Street area, and he was taken aback by that, to see syringes, sleeping bags, bottles.


"When we explained they were needle spikes, he was taken aback," said Lord Mayor Christy Burke.


DCC was contacted about needle pricks two of their public domain staff received while collecting used syringes, but they did not respond to the query by the time of going to print.

High-potency cannabis linked to 25% of psychosis cases


A powerful “skunk-like” cannabis is associated with one in four new cases of psychosis, a study has found.


Scientists at King’s College London also found the potent form of the Class B drug led to a three-times higher risk of psychosis in casual users, rising to a five-fold risk in those who used it every day.


The findings of the six-year study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, suggest strong forms of cannabis can lead to serious mental illness, the researchers said, as they called for greater public awareness.


Robin Murray, Professor of psychiatric research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience IoPPN at King’s and senior researcher on the study, said: “It is now well known that use of cannabis increases the risk of psychosis. However, sceptics still claim that this is not an important cause of schizophrenia-like psychosis.


“This paper suggests that we could prevent almost one quarter of cases of psychosis if no-one smoked high potency cannabis. This could save young patients a lot of suffering and the NHS a lot of money.”


While skunk was associated with psychotic episodes, the milder form of cannabis known as hash had no such link, the scientists said.


Dr Marta Di Forti, lead author on the research, said: “The results show that psychosis risk in cannabis users depends on both the frequency of use and cannabis potency. The use of hash was not associated with increased risk of psychosis.


“As with smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol you need a clear public message.


“When a GP or psychiatrist asks if a patient uses cannabis it’s not helpful; it’s like asking whether someone drinks. As with alcohol, the relevant questions are how often and what type of cannabis. This gives more information about whether the user is at risk of mental health problems; awareness needs to increase for this to happen.”


The study looked at 800 people aged between 18 and 65 in south London, including 410 who had suffered psychosis and 370 healthy patients.


The researchers highlighted south London had one of the highest recorded rates of psychosis patients and samples of skunk seized in the area had high levels of the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), linked to psychotic episodes such as hallucinations.


The report said: “In view of the high prevalence of skunk use in our study population, if a causal role for cannabis is assumed, skunk use alone was responsible for 24% of those adults presenting with first-episode psychosis to the psychiatric services in south London.


“Our findings show the importance of raising public awareness of the risk associated with use of high-potency cannabis, especially when such varieties of cannabis are becoming more available.


“The worldwide trend of liberalisation of the legal constraints on the use of cannabis further emphasises the urgent need to develop public education to inform young people about the risks of high-potency cannabis.”

New 'Sneaky Naggin' drinking fad pressures students to drink spirit bottle down in one


A new drinking craze among third-levels students requiring them to down a naggin of spirits has been condemned by the Union of Students in Ireland.

The ‘Sneaky Naggin’ game involves surprising a fellow student with a 200-millilitre  bottle of cheap spirits, usually vodka or gin, during class and forcing them to drink it whole when they are next out.


USI Welfare officer Greg O’ Donoghue branded the game as “irresponsible”, saying that “no friend should encourage someone to drink that amount alone.”


“Consuming that level of alcohol is dangerous and it isn’t something that people should be encouraging their friends to do.”


“Our message on this is simple, don’t give into peer pressure. Don’t be afraid to be your own person,” he added.


Hitting out at student sites posting “how to" guides on sneaking naggins into pubs and clubs, Mr O’ Donoghue said such articles “weren’t helpful in encouraging people to develop healthy drinking habits.”


“Quite frankly, we don’t support this kind of advice,” he said.


The ‘Sneaky Naggin’ game comes on the back of a report last month which showed that two-thirds of third level students were drinking “hazardous amounts” of alcohol every week.


Researchers at University College Cork questioned students on their drinking habits – with 66pc admitting they engaged in unsafe drinking.


“Binge drinking does real damage to the body and people need to realise that,” said Mr O’ Donoghue in response to the report.


“In December we rolled out our ‘Mental Drinking’ campaign to highlight the dangers of drinking too much. We’ve been really pleased by how well it’s gone down and next month we’ll be visiting over 30 campuses to drive home the message.”

Women’s Aid says young women abused while dating should have access to barring orders


Law must also address online harassment

Legislation is urgently needed to allow younger women who have never lived with their partners to access safety or barring orders, Women’s Aid has warned.

Younger women in dating relationships are legally unprotected from domestic abuse, says the domestic violence charity. It also says domestic violence legislation must be extended to include cyber-stalking and online harassment.

The agency, which yesterday relaunched its 2in2u awareness campaign aimed at informing younger women of the danger signs of intimate abuse, says the current legislative framework leaves women who are not married to, living with, or, have a child with their partner, unprotected.

“While the law deals with the lived, real world, we have not conceptualised legislation to deal with the virtual world,” says Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin. “That is the world where younger people are engaging and it’s moving at a fairly frantic pace.

“We are increasingly seeing technology used to abuse women, especially among younger women.

“Many younger women think of domestic abuse as something that happens to older, married women. But dating abuse is a significant issue for our frontline support services.”

Warning signs

“Research has shown that while young women can be at even higher risk of abuse than their older counterparts, there is low recognition of controlling and coercive relationship behaviour by young men, among young women.”

Women’s Aid wants younger women to think about their own safety when they engage with an intimate partner online or by text, and to know the warning signs of abuse.

Among the abuses being reported is one where intimate, private photographs are uploaded and shared, perhaps with messages inviting other men to rape or otherwise abuse the woman. “Women are also disclosing how they are bombarded with texts and calls often telling them, in explicit detail, how they will be attacked or even killed,” said Ms Martin.

“There were also instances where men harassed and stalked partners on social media or on their phones. We also hear from women whose boyfriends and ex-boyfriends had placed lies and false rumours about them on internet sites.”

Ms Martin said she hoped women would talk about the issues with friends and that mothers would talk to teenage and older daughters.

The agency is also calling for better legal protection for women being stalked and abused online in dating relationships.


“We recommend that a specific stalking offence be introduced, with a comprehensive but not exhaustive definition, including new forms of cyber-stalking, and that stalking be recognised as grounds for a safety order,” said Ms Martin.

“Women’s Aid urges the Government to make safety orders available to women who have never lived with their boyfriends. Until these changes are made, young women in dating relationships remain at risk.”

The 2in2u campaign is supported by the Irish Girl Guides which has 12,000 members.

Planned new system for special needs resources is shelved


Reforms were aimed at combating ‘inequitable’ allocation of resources

Plans to reform the allocation of resources for special education needs have been shelved for this year despite concerns about unfairness with the current system.

Since late last year the Department of Education has working to implement a new system of allocating resources that would allow pupils with special educational needs gain access to extra teaching resources without having to get a diagnosis of disability.

However, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said she was not planning to change the system in September 2015, as had been originally proposed.

Instead, she has asked department officials to design a pilot of the new model which schools could opt into on a voluntary basis.

In making this decision, the Minister said she was guided by the advice of a working group of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) that “sufficient time” should be allowed for further consultation with the education stakeholders before the new model was implemented in schools.

The new system was aimed at combatting what the NCSE described as the inequitable situation where wealthier parents could gain access to resources through a private diagnosis of learning difficulty. The department also has long believed that some learning and support and resources teaching hours were being misdirected to other tasks in better-off schools.

Under the new system, almost 11,000 support posts – which cost €600 million a year – would be allocated under new criteria, including the school’s “educational profile”.

The department has encountered some difficulty in getting completed forms containing data for this profile returned from schools.

Ms O’Sullivan welcomed the fact that there had been “a broad welcome for the proposed new model from parents, disability groups, schools and stakeholders,” the department said, in a statement.

“However, she also said that, while there has been significant consultation in relation to the proposed new model, there had not been sufficient time to address fully the concerns which have been raised for the September 2015 school year.

“In particular, the Minister noted that a robust mechanism for identifying children with complex special educational needs had yet to be finalised.”

While consultations continue, the Minister has announced the development of a new Inclusion Support Service within the NCSE to assist schools in supporting children with special educational needs.

This service will include the Special Education Support Service (SESS), the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) and the Visiting Teacher Service for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and for children who are blind/visually impaired (VTSVHI) which until now had been managed by the department.

The department said the change would mean that schools would receive a better and more integrated service in managing special educational needs.

The department is also reviewing the roles, structures and optimal working arrangements for the NCSE, the Inclusion Support Service and National Educational Psychological Service. Submissions are sought from any interested stakeholders in relation to the issues by March 13th.

The NCSE said it was very pleased that the Minister was expanding its role. Its ceo Teresa Griffin said: “Bringing these support services together will, over time, help to improve outcomes for students with special needs.”

The agency also welcomed the Minister’s decision “to continue to develop the proposal for a better and more equitable way” of allocating additional special education teachers to schools.

Safer Internet Day: Top tips to warn your children about the dangers of online photo sharing


February 10 sees the launch of Safer Internet Week, an EU initiative which aims to provide children and teenagers with the skills to fight dangers posed by the internet.

Children and teenagers often don’t entirely understand the boundaries of the photographs they share online and so it is vital that the risks and dangers are communicated with them clearly.


Below are ten expert tips to communicate with your child about the risks posed by sharing photographs online or even within their social circle.


Once you share a photo you lose control of it


Kids and teens often aren’t aware of how public things can be online. They may not understand that once they share a photo online they lose control of who sees the image and how it is used or altered. It is very easy to share a photo online but it is not so easy to take it down. Within minutes a photo can be shared with thousands of people. Even if your children use private messages or apps to share photos it’s still very easy for people to take a screenshot or photo of what they’ve shared. These people can then share your child’s picture wherever they like.


The Granny Rule


When young people first go online it can be difficult for them to figure out the boundary between what should go online and what should stay offline. It’s a good idea to talk with your kids about what photos they share online and with their friends. Highlight to them that it’s important that they never take photos where people expect privacy or share photos of a more personal nature. One way of helping your children decide if a photo is okay to share online is The Granny Rule. If they wouldn’t show a particular photo to their granny then it probably shouldn’t be online.


Read more: Signs that a child is being bullied


Respect others


As well as thinking about how sharing a photo might affect your kids themselves,you should also chat about how sharing images might affect the other people in the pictures. If the photo might embarrass or get someone in trouble, encourage your child to be responsible and delete the photo. He or she might think it’s okay to share a picture with a private group of friends. However, sharing a digital image is like telling a secret to someone. Once it’s shared once, the photo could end up anywhere.


Watch your space


If your children have social networking profiles where people can post comments on their photos, highlight the importance of checking these comments regularly. If they receive comments that annoy or anger them they should avoid replying. Instead they should delete the comment, block the person, and report the incident to the website owner or service provider.


Who and where


It’s not a good idea to give away where you are online. By sharing and tagging photos in real time and publicising what s/he is doing, your child might leave him/herself vulnerable. Indeed we’ve all heard about burglaries that took place when someone’s holiday photos inadvertently advertised the fact that their house was empty for the week. Remind your child to be careful about sharing too many personal details online through their photos.


Know who can see you


Before your children join social networking services talk with them about the privacy settings and options available. Many sites allow you to decide which parts of your profile can be accessed by others. Assume that everything is public unless you are sure that it isn't. Opting for private doesn’t always mean that only friends can see your child’s profile. In some cases, everything your child puts on his/her profile can be seen by everyone but only friends can post comments or IM him/her. You should also stress the point that profile photos are nearly always available for everyone to see.


Check your tags


It’s all well and good for your child to be educated about the privacy settings on social networking sites. However they will still be vulnerable if their friends aren’t as vigilant about their own privacy settings. One way of protecting online reputation is to be in control of what photos you’re tagged in. Encourage your children to be required to approve any photos they’re tagged in. Otherwise your child’s photo might end up public, depending on the privacy settings of their friends.


“Friends” and friends


Talk with your children about being selective about who they become friends with; you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. Even though they are called friends, people you ‘add’ are really little more than acquaintances, nobody has 500 friends. Add people you know. Be as popular as you are or aren't. As soon as your child adds a friend online he/she usually gives that person access to all of his/her photos and online content.


Know who has permission to use your photos


Remind your children to be very careful when playing games, taking quizzes and using different apps through their social networking accounts. Often times these apps require you to give access to your email, location or profile picture before they allow you to sign up. Once you’ve given permission (which takes only a few seconds) the apps can use your photo and information however they like. Sometimes these photos can end up in ads for dating services and other adult websites, the last place any parent would want their young teenager’s photo.


Representing yourself online


As children become tweens and become teenagers they will experiment with different forms of self-expression. This is all part of growing up but it is important to have a talk with your children about how they present themselves online. You might think that your teenagers take far too many selfies. It mightn’t be as bad as it seems. Often times they are just taking control of how they want to present themselves to the world. However, if you think your children might be revealing too much of themselves online and attracting the wrong kind of attention, it’s something you need to address with them.


Talk about apps


Get to know the apps and services your children are using by having them show you how they work. You might also find the Explainers ( on Webwise useful for getting the facts on some the most popular services used by young people, such as Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp.


Don’t be intimidated by technology


Lots of parents are a little nervous around technology and assume that their kids are the experts in that domain. While your child might be a whizzkid when it comes to instagramming and vlogging that doesn’t make you redundant as a parent. You may not know all there is to know about blogs and walls but you do know about parenting and all the same principles apply regarding setting rules and boundaries that are relevant in other aspects of your child’s life.


Go easy on the baby photos


This one is for all you new parents out there. Social networking services and messaging apps are a great way to keep in touch with friends. However you should really think about how much of your child’s life you put up online. We all know those people who share every step of their babies’ lives, from the first sonograms to bath time to their first days at school. Be conscious of the fact that it’s very easy for these pictures to get into the wrong hands and end up being used in upsetting contexts. Even if it is just friends who are viewing your child’s progress, said child mightn’t be too happy when embarrassing baby photos come back to haunt him/her in years to come.


What to do when something goes wrong


If someone makes contact with your child in an inappropriate or hurtful way, advise your child to block them, keep the message or comment as evidence, and report them to the owner of the website. Don’t respond to bullying or harassing contacts: this just creates more trouble. In the case of bullying photos encourage your child to tell an adult, who he or she trusts. Your child might talk to you or a teacher or guidance councillor about it. Your child’s school should be able to take some action as they all have bullying policies that cover this kind of thing.


Help is out there


More serious cases that could be illegal, such as if someone makes inappropriate sexual suggestions or is ‘grooming’ an under 16 years old, can be reported anonymously to All reports are taken very seriously and passed on to the Gardaí when appropriate. If your child needs someone to talk to they can call Childline at 1800 666 666. The National Parents’ Council operate a helpline for parents in need of advice. You can reach them at 01-8874477.

'Porn in playground' fuels rise in 'child-on-child' sex assaults


Shocking rise in number of child rape and sexual attack cases reported to helpline



More than 600 children were the victims or perpetrators of rape and sexual assault last year - with some "increasingly violent teen-on-teen" incidents linked to pornography, the Sunday Independent has learned.


Disturbing new figures reveal 618 parents, professionals and schools contacted the Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) helpline in 2014 to report the rape and sexual assault of children - an increase of almost 500 calls since 2011, when 132 calls were placed.


The cases include 'adult-on-child' assaults and 'child-on-child' assaults - both with and without a history of sexual abuse.


In an interview with the Sunday Independent, CARI CEO and former Fine Gael TD for Dublin North West Mary Flaherty said a growing number of child-on-child assaults are occurring on the playground.


"Schools can be very good at watching for signs of change, but it's very important for supervision and for management to be aware that this is a real issue," she said.


Speaking about a primary school referral, she said: "There was a big age difference and it's by no means the first we have come across in the school setting," she said, adding that sexualised bullying may be "necessarily secret" as it's "particularly shameful" and hard to admit.


"Children have fallen off the search light because all the focus has been on historic and adult abuse," said Ms Flaherty, adding that a broad and open societal debate is seriously needed as "we're not just going to close down pornography".


She admits the increasingly sexualised nature of society makes it an extremely difficult problem for parents and teachers today to monitor.


"Frankly it's not easy to protect from," Ms Flaherty added. Quoting the parent of a young victim of child-on-child sex abuse, she added: "We teach our kids about stranger dangers but never think about warning them about other kids."


The charity boss said the modern "obsession" with porn is having a huge impact on our children. "Particularly with boys we would certainly think that porn is linked, it is a completely changed world, in terms of exposure, so it's a very big challenge," she said.


Ms Flaherty also argued the country's child sex abuse victims - now up to 3,000 new allegations every year - are being "failed on many fronts" due to service cuts.


She told the Sunday Independent: "It's in the communities, it's in the schools and it's sometimes in families themselves where victims aren't heard. They are not being believed step one and there is a level of proof required that's almost impossible to achieve," she said, adding CARI has experienced huge service cuts in recent years.


"We have alerted the HSE to this growth in a problem that needs a solution and at the minute we have waiting lists," she said. At least 50 children - from all over the country - are awaiting access to CARI services in Dublin and Limerick.


The new CARI data also reveals that 129 people - mostly mothers - contacted the therapy and counselling service about their young child's inappropriate or harmful "sexualised behaviour".


These include: pornographic interest; sexually explicit conversations; pulling another child's skirt up or pants down; petting and French kissing; preoccupation with masturbation; simulating foreplay with dolls or peers with clothes on. More serious examples include sexually explicit conversations with significant age difference; touching genitals of others; forcing exposure; simulating intercourse; and genital injury not explained by accidental cause.


In response to the worrying growth in young cases with no history of sexual abuse, CARI developed a policy to work with children up to the age of 12 who are exhibiting sexually harmful behaviour. Children aged 13-17 are referred to other specialised units for adolescents. But this does not go far enough, according to the foundation, which is calling on schools, parents and the Government to "seriously increase" efforts.


Ms Flaherty said: "If you look at all the pop videos, they are practically simulating intercourse, children are learning to gyrate in a very sexual way from very young. Clothing and everything is so hyper-sexed, film in general is very open and then you get to accessing porn and that is extensive, there is no doubt."


Although 97pc of primary schools and 98pc of post-primary schools in Ireland have Relationships and Sexuality Education programmes in place - dealing with a range of issues including pornography - exposure is "just a step away".


According to the Department of Education, 96pc of primary schools and 100pc of post-primary schools have centrally provided content filtering - through which access to pornography is blocked. "All schools that accept a broadband service from the Department are required to confirm that they have an acceptable use policy in place," a spokesperson said.


However, it is up to each school to determine how and when students access the internet and how they are supervised. Last May, an advisory group on Internet Content Governance made a series of recommendations on internet governance issues, including encouraging internet service providers to provide parental control products as part of their service.


However, the Department of Communications admits it "has never actively considered" introducing a requirement for providers to block legal content, "due to legal and operational reasons".

Second survey on children’s ethnicity after ‘White Irish’ error


Parents are getting a second chance to have their children’s ethnicity recorded in the controversial Primary Online Database (Pod).

The move follows an admission by the Department of Education that it erred in only having one category of “Irish” on the original questionnaire, namely “White Irish”.

The department said a supplementary form would be available for downloading by parents within the next week from its website, covering those questions for Pod relating to ethnicity and religion.

Parents have to give their consent to having information on these issues recorded, and completing the new form is optional.

The department said schools, where necessary, would be given added time to collect these additional forms, although the March deadline for the inputting of general Pod data remained in place.

The error had been brought to the department’s attention by Brendan Hennessy, a father of two adopted children from Ethiopia.

In a letter to the department last Friday, he said he believed it was “a genuine error, but it’s a terrible mistake”.

He wrote: “Over 500,000 primary school children and their parents are receiving a form from the department which erroneously suggests that the only category of Irish is ‘white’.”

Cultural background

The department acknowledged its choice of categories “may fall short of what could be expected in today’s multi-racial Ireland”.

In the Census, conducted by the Central Statistics Office, there are four main headings for ethnic or cultural background: “White”, “Black or Black Irish”, “Asian or Asian Irish” and “other, including mixed background”.

In contrast, the department questionnaire offered one “Irish” category which was “White Irish”. It did, however, offer “Black African” or “Any other Black background”.

The department said it would now change the categories in the database to include such identifiers as “Black Irish African” or “Asian Irish background”.

The department is paying primary schools more than €800,000 to gather the information from parents at a rate of €1.50 per completed form.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the episode highlighted the need for further training to minimise the risk of discrimination in the delivery of education, health and other basic services.

Mr Hennessy, a policy worker with the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Co Cork said he welcomed the department’s response and credited it with coming up with a solution “very quickly”.

He stressed that he supported Pod as a mechanism for gathering important educational data, and encouraged parents to complete the survey so the information properly reflected modern Irish society.

He also suggested the department might share the information at local level “on how the form is used” to build trust in the system and the policymaking surrounding it.

Fiona Doyle: ‘I’m not a victim any more, I’m a survivor’


Abusive father gets 9 years in jail, after appeal on lenient sentence


“I’m not a victim any more, I’m now a survivor and that makes all the difference.”


That was how Fiona Doyle reacted after her father, Patrick O’Brien, was sentenced to 12 years in prison with the final three suspended, following a finding by the Court of Appeal that his original sentence was too lenient.


Asked if she felt justice had finally been served, Ms Doyle said: “Yes, big time.


“It’s been a long road, it’s been hard, it’s had its ups and downs, but we got through it.”


She told reporters after yesterday’s hearing: “Can you see my face? Isn’t it so different to two years ago? This is two years of counselling, two years of sorting my head out and getting on the right path. I am delighted.”


O’Brien, 74, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, with the final three suspended, for raping his daughter. The Court of Appeal that his original sentence had been too lenient. He had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 16 sample counts of rape and indecent assault of his daughter at Mackintosh Park, Pottery Rd, Dun Laoghaire in the 1970s and 80s.


On January 21, 2013, sentencing judge Mr Justice Paul Carney described O’Brien’s abuse of his daughter as one of the worst cases one could find.


Taking account of his health problems, Mr Justice Carney sentenced O’Brien to 12 years in prison, suspended the final nine years, and granted him continuing bail pending an appeal. However, bail was taken from him a few days later following a media outcry.


Following a review of his sentence, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan, , who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, yesterday said the appropriate sentence for O’Brien was “indeed 12 years but the period of suspension ought to be three years”.


The court stated last week that, despite serious illness and advanced age, O’Brien cannot be considered a person for whom prison would be “impossible to tolerate”.


Counsel for O’Brien, Mary Rose Gearty SC, submitted during a short sentencing hearing yesterday that the single most important factor for the court to consider was the plea of guilty entered by O’Brien.


She said a plea of guilty in a very hard case without corroboration must attract significant mitigation in terms of the sentence imposed. Otherwise, there was no incentive for a person accused of such a crime to enter a plea of guilty.


“That would be a disaster, not just for the victims of abuse but also for the system,” Ms Gearty said.


“Why bother” pleading guilty, Ms Gearty said, “if there’s no reduction in the sentence”, adding that a few years made little difference if one was looking at a sentence of 12 years.


Ms Gearty further submitted that the vindication given to abuse victims in such cases was different to convictions by jury and in cases where perpetrators protested their innocence.


Where there have been pleas of guilty, she said, abusers accept responsibility and publicly state their victims are telling the truth.


Ms Gearty asked the court to “seriously consider” the kind of incentive on offer to somebody in that position.


Mr Justice Ryan said the three relevant matters were O’Brien’s age, his health conditions, and what Ms Gearty said were the stand-out features of his guilty plea.


He said the court accepted Ms Gearty’s points about pleas of guilty in cases such as this, that it was the most important feature of the case and, on its own, was of particular value.


Mr Justice Ryan said guilty pleas arose where an accused accepted responsibility of their crimes and they were particularly important in cases of historic sexual abuse.


Sometimes the experience of victims was that, “abused as children”, they were “disbelieved as adults”, Mr Justice Ryan said, and a plea of guilty removed one of those potential wrongs.


It was right to acknowledge the plea of guilty in this case and it was indeed acknowledged by Ms Doyle in her powerful victim impact statement to the sentencing judge, Mr Justice Ryan said.


Before making its decision, Mr Justice Ryan said the court wished to observe that if O’Brien’s health deteriorated there was a power held by the executive to take account of that and make necessary arrangements, including the power of remission.


The new sentence was imposed “on the same conditions” to commence from the same date.


O’Brien, who appeared in court with the assistance of a mobility aid, remained seated while he entered into his own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour from the date of his release.

There are 844 people under the age of 25 in Irish prisons


Just 20 of them are female.


Recently released figures show there are 844 people in Irish prisons under the age of 25.

Almost 50 of them are aged 18 or under and 20 of them are female. Out of a total of 3,612 prisoners, this level of under 25s is actually encouraging, according to former Mountjoy Governor John Lonergan.

Speaking to this week, Lonergan described the figure of 844 as “very progressive”.

“It shows that things are progressing in Ireland, we’ve started to put a huge emphasis on diversion, on family support, on community support and so on”, he said.

The courts, in particular, deserve credit for that. They’re obviously making a real effort to improve things and I think in the long-term it will be of immense value.

In the mid nineties, when he was governor at Mounjoy, around two thirds of the prison population were under 27. In the 1960s, he said there were up to 260 boys in St Patrick’s Institution alone.

“72% eventually graduated down to Mountjoy and that was an appalling figure.”

My experience is that once a young person came into the prison system, the vast majority continued to commit crime. Once you have a criminal record and a prison record, the chances of getting work are slip and you can get pushed into that culture. Once you’ve been in once, the deterrent is gone.

The single biggest factor in crimes for young offenders is still drugs, whether directly or indirectly as Lonergan said many were caught after robberies or shoplifting to support their drug habit

What we need to do now, is support community programmes that are doing great work to keep troubled teens on the straight and narrow, according to Lonergan and ensure the Children First Bill is fully enacted.

“All indicators and research show that early intervention and diversion is far more beneficial than prison time.”

Children with anti-social siblings struggle to read emotion as well


Teenagers with brothers and sisters who show severe anti-social behaviour share a similar impairment in recognising emotions as their siblings, according to a new study.

The findings, by researchers at the University of Southampton, suggest difficulties in recognising emotions could be a factor that increases a child’s risk of developing conduct disorder – a condition characterised by pathological aggression and anti-social behaviour.

Previous studies have shown that children and adolescents with conduct disorder (CD) find it difficult to identify facial emotions in others such as anger, fear and happiness.

But the new research, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, reveals that the siblings of children with conduct disorder, who display no symptoms themselves, also struggle to recognise certain emotions.

As the brothers and sisters of those with CD are significantly more likely to develop anti-social behaviour themselves, the research suggests that similar difficulties in facial emotion recognition could be a factor that contributes to this increased risk.

Dr Graeme Fairchild said: “Young people with conduct disorder place a greater burden on legal, healthcare and educational services than their typically developing peers.

“It is vital to understand the underlying factors behind this condition that might explain why anti-social behaviour sometimes runs in families.

“The ability to recognise emotions in others is vital for successful non-verbal communication and social interaction. Our findings suggest that difficulties in reading emotions in others could be a risk factor in the development of CD.”

The researchers studied facial emotion recognition in 107 teenagers, divided into three groups: 39 healthy control subjects, 44 adolescents diagnosed with conduct disorder, and 24 unaffected siblings with a brother or sister who has conduct disorder but who have no history of anti-social behaviour themselves.

The teenagers with conduct disorder struggled to recognise anger, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise in facial expressions, in line with findings from previous studies.

The non-anti-social siblings of those with conduct disorder also showed impaired recognition of anger, happiness, and to a lesser extent fear, when compared with the control group.

Dr Fairchild said: “If impaired facial emotion recognition is a risk factor for conduct disorder, further research is needed to determine why some relatives with similar genetic and environmental risk factors might develop conduct disorder while others remain unaffected, despite exhibiting similar problems in emotion recognition.”

Teenager (17) missing from home for a week


A 17-year-old has been missing from her home in New Ross, Wexford for a week.


Letisha Murphy was last seen at approximately 8.30pm on January 14 in New Ross.


Gardai are appealing to the public for assistance in tracing the whereabouts of the teenager.


Letisha is described as 5'4" in height, of average build with long blond hair extensions.


When last seen, she was wearing a dark jacket with fur on the hood and white runners.


It is believed Letisha may be in the Cork city area.


Anyone with information is asked to contact New Ross Garda Station 051 - 426030, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.

Social workers and therapists may face fitness-to-practise inquiries


Sanctions against those found guilty of misconduct to include ban on practising

Health and social care professionals accused of misconduct or poor performance may face a public fitness-to-practise hearing for the first time from today.

A State regulator has been given authority to issue sanctions and investigate complaints against a range of registered professionals, including social workers, speech and language therapists, dieticians, radiographers and radiation therapists.

Any person can make a complaint to Coru, the regulator for health and social care professionals in Ireland for an event which occurred since December 31st, 2014.

Fitness-to-practise hearings will be similar to those held for other professionals such as doctors, pharmacists and nurses and will examine a person’s ability to practise both their job and profession. The potential sanctions range from formal censure to prohibiting a registered professional from practising.

Other professions

A range of other professions are due to become subject to these rules next year, including occupational therapists, physiotherapists, optometrists and dispensing opticians.

Ginny Hanrahan, chief executive of Coru, said if a registered professional was unfit to practise, they put the safety of the public at risk. “Protecting the public is our primary remit and, while the majority of practitioners operate to the highest standards, we will not hesitate to take action if and when necessary,” she said.


The measure may well prove controversial among social workers, for example, who argue in some cases that under- resourcing and heavy caseloads means they are unable to provide a safe service.

Ms Hanrahan, however, said professionals who met standards set out in their profession’s code of conduct should not have any reason to feel worried.

All registered professionals have been issued with these codes and all complaints will be measured against them.

Coru was set up in recent years following decades of pledges to promote higher standards by regulating health professionals.

Increase in more lethal methods of self-harm in recession


People who self-harm have been using more lethal methods since the beginning of the recession, research shows.


While the level of self-harm continues to fall since then, the use of lethal methods has risen by more than half for women and by more than one third for men, according to the National Suicide Research Foundation.


In 2013, the age-standardised rate of individuals presenting to hospital following self-harm was 199 per 100,000, a 6% decrease on the rate in 2012.


This decrease is the third successive fall in the rate of self-harm in Ireland, which was down 4% in 2011 and 2% in 2012.


However, the rate of self-harm in 2013 was still 6% higher than 2007, before the economic recession. During the period 2007 to 2013, there was variation in the methods of self-harm recorded by the NSRF’s Registry.


While methods of low lethality remained relatively stable during this time, highly lethal methods have steadily increased since 2007 for both men and women and across all age groups, and in particular among 25-44-year- olds.


While relatively rare, the number of presentations involving highly lethal methods has increased by 32% for men and 53% for women since 2007.


“This is particularly worrying as there is a significant association between the use of highly lethal methods of self-harm and subsequent suicide, especially among men,” said Professor Ella Arensman, of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCC.


The research also found the increase in rates of self-harm associated with the economic recession varied according to age.


During the period 2010-2013, the increase in male self-harm was highest among those aged 25-44 years, the study reveals.


For women, the most significant increase was observed for those aged 15 to 24.


Meanwhile, the suicide prevention organisaton Pieta House has announced the appointment of Brian J Higgins as its new chief executive officer.


Mr Higgins takes over from Pieta House founder Joan Freeman, who will now focus her efforts on expanding Pieta House’s services abroad, beginning initially in the United States.


Mr Higgins said he is looking forward to “continuing the admirable work conducted by Joan Freeman since 2006.”

HSE moves to allay fears of nursing home closures


The Health Service Executive has moved to allay fears of widespread closure of nursing homes that do not meet the standards set out by the health watchdog.


A report in The Sunday Business Post highlights a number of homes, including six in the Cork area, where the Health Information and Quality Authority identified areas of “major” non-compliance.


These included St Finbarr’s Hospital on Douglas Rd, Bandon Community Hospital, Macroom Community Hospital, St Joseph’s Ward, Bantry General Hospital, St Joseph’s Community Hospital, Millstreet, and Castletownbere Community Hospital.


Other nursing homes in breach of standards include St Joseph’s Community Hospital in Ennis, Co Clare, St Patrick’s Hospital, John’s Hill, Waterford, and Tralee Community Nursing Unit.


In a statement yesterday, the HSE said it was “currently working with HIQA around our public units which are currently registered but will be up for re-registration during 2015”.


The HSE said each unit will be inspected by HIQA and a decision made about re-registration on a unit-by-unit basis.


The HSE conceded that HIQA has indicated “there will be issues with some of our units around full compliance under infrastructural standards”.


However, they said it would be “pre-emptive of the HSE to identify what the outcome of the inspection process will be”.


The HSE said it had, “within available resources”, upgraded some public long-stay units “to full infrastructural standards” but that “a major capital investment would be required to bring all these units to full infrastructural compliance, particularly those that are in excess of 100 years old”.


However, the HSE said it recognises that the units in question “provide a significant number of long-stay beds in areas of high demand” and with that in mind, they have been “working closely with HIQA over the past number of months to meet the re-registration requirements of these units” to facilitate continued delivery of these services.


HIQA has said if a centre is not in compliance by July 1, 2015, and if no realistic time-bound costed/funded plan has been agreed with the authority, then appropriate conditions will be attached to any renewal of registration.


There are more than 100 publicly-run nursing homes catering for more than 7,000 residents.

Over 2,500 nursing home beds may close due to failed standards


Knock-on effect on hospital overcrowding possible through lack of step-down care

More than 2,500 beds in public nursing homes may have to be closed from July because they fail to meet strict new accommodation standards set by the State’s public health watchdog.

Such closures would have a severe knock-on effect on hospital overcrowding through increasing the number of older patients needlessly occupying hospital beds because of a lack of step-down care.

A surge in the number of delayed discharges in hospitals was a major contributory factor behind this month’s record figures for patients on trolleys.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien has warned there is currently insufficient funding to bring accommodation standards in 30 large public nursing homes up to the levels required by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

The challenge of re-registering public long-stay beds with Hiqa was a significant issue to be dealt with over the coming months, he told the Oireachtas health committee.

New standards

The new standards essentially require nursing homes to move from providing multi-occupancy wards with shared toilets to single and double rooms with en-suites. However, many public nursing homes are located in older institutional building that are expensive to convert.

Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch said this week Hiqa had agreed to extend the deadline for closures by up to three years, provided there was a commitment to a timeframe for the works.

A spokesman for Hiqa denied any blanket guarantee had been given, but said the standards provided by each nursing home would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

He said a lot of private operators had spent considerable sums upgrading their premises, and public nursing homes could not be treated any differently.

Where a home fails to meet the new standards, Hiqa can attach conditions to its operation. This could involve a temporary or permanent reduction in the number of residents, or more extreme “restrictive actions”.

Demographic factors are increasing the pressures on the nursing home sector.

As Mr O’Brien pointed out to the committee, the over-65s population is growing by about 20,000 a year, while over-80s are increasing by 4 per cent.

Department of Children announces new secretary general


James Reilly confirms Fergal Lynch’s appointment to top position within department


Dr Fergal Lynch has been appointed as secretary general of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, it has been announced. *

In a statement, Minister for Children Dr James Reilly confirmed the appointment of Dr Lynch to the top position within the department. Dr Lynch will replace the previous secretary general Jim Breslin.

The appointment was officially confirmed at a Cabinet meeting this morning [WEDNESDAY].


“Dr Lynch has been deputy secretary general of the Department of Health since 2012. He has extensive experience in strategic planning, policy, evaluation of policy . . . service delivery and project management,” the statement said.

Dr Lynch holds a BA in public management, as well as a masters degree and doctorate in governance.

Mr Breslin was appointed secretary general of the Department of Health last September.

Cameras in care homes not ruled out


Minister for Social Care Kathleen Lynch says concerns arise over potential intrusion

The Government has not ruled out the possibility of introducing cameras and other forms of monitoring in certain care homes but are concerned about a potential “intrusion on dignity” that might arise in some facilities.

Minister of State for Social Care Kathleen Lynch said cameras may be employed in some situations but that no definitive, overall decision has been reached.

She was responding to reports of a U-turn on previously mooted plans to have such measures introduced following allegations of abuse at the Aras Attracta facility in Swinford, Co Mayo.

“I am not certain that they would be appropriate in all homes,” said Ms Lynch, who has responsibility for primary and social care.

“Where it is their home since birth, I think we do have to put increased monitoring into places like that. I am sure we will find nothing but just in case; I would be very worried that the lack of monitoring could leave it open to suggestions that maybe behaviour is not appropriate.”

However, she qualified the position for people with intellectual disabilities, who are capable of communicating, saying such measures may potentially lead to an “intrusion on their dignity”.

The same could be said of elderly residences, she said, adding the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) had a role in oversight and residents are often in receipt of regular visits from family members.

Ms Lynch was speaking at the launch of new HSE guidelines on providing accessible services to patients with disabilities, launched at the Mater hospital in Dublin on Tuesday.

Concerns in relation to care homes have come into focus following an RTÉ Prime Time investigation into alleged mistreatment of residents at Aras Attracta last year.

In response HSE director general Tony O’Brien flagged a potential for under cover inspections saying such a move would have “certain values”.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar also voiced his support.

Plans for cameras at care homes are ruled out


The health service has abandoned plans for placing surveillance cameras and undercover workers in care homes.

The U-turn comes just a month after both ideas were floated by HSE director general Tony O'Brien, amid the fall out from the Aras Attracta affair.


The HSE suspended a dozen staff at the home for people with disabilities in Swinford, Co Mayo pending an investigation.


Abusive practices such as force feeding, slapping, physical restraint and psychological abuse were exposed after an undercover researcher working for RTE secretly filmed at the facility.


In a letter to staff ahead of the footage being broadcast, Mr O'Brien said sending undercover workers into care settings "has a certain value" and revealed he had asked the HSE's social care division to examine how the approach could be used.


He later said the HSE would also investigate the possibility of using covert cameras, an idea backed by Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch.


However, it now appears neither initiative will be coming into force.


In a statement to the Irish Independent, the HSE said: "Currently it is the view that the installation of cameras in residential facilities would impinge on the privacy of residents.


"Therefore the HSE has not progressed the suggestions that cameras or undercover reporters be used in care homes."


The statement added that the suggestions would be kept "under review".


The footage shot at Aras Attracta is being examined as part of a garda investigation.


Although the covert camera and undercover worker initiatives are not happening, the HSE said it had moved ahead with other measures to safeguard residents in care homes for the elderly and the disabled.


Under national policy procedures introduced last month, all service providers have to appoint a "designated officer" to receive complaints.


They have responsibility for ensuring appropriate managers are informed and necessary actions are taken in response to a complaint.


They must also ensure that all reporting obligations are met.


The alleged failure of care homes to properly respond to complaints has been a feature of concerns raised by care workers, residents and their relations in recent years.


The Department of Health said it was currently examining proposed legislation drafted by Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, which would expand the role of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and allow it to conduct investigations of specific complaints.


Although HIQA has the power to take complaints into consideration when carrying out inspections, it is not allowed to investigate specific complaints.


Around 700 complaints about care homes received by HIQA over the past two years are currently being examined by gardai.

Woman to appear in court over death of Emily Barut (11)


Girl was found dead at her home in Tullamore, Co Offaly in September 2012

A woman is to appear in court in connection with the death of an 11-year-old girl in Co Offaly more than two years ago.

Emily Barut, who was severely disabled, was found dead at her home at Bachelors Walk in Tullamore on September 15th, 2012.

A woman in her 50s was arrested in relation to the death on Monday morning.

She is to appear at Tullamore District Court later charged in connection with the investigation into her death.

Self-harming girl, 13, on streets with alleged abuser due to lack of secure unit


The Child and Family Agency has told the High Court there is currently no secure placement available to meet the needs of a volatile and disruptive 13-year-old girl in care.

The girl, who has self-harmed, assaulted staff and engaged in property damage, was approved for special care last month but remains on a waiting list with seven other children.

According to the girl's guardian ad litem, the 13-year-old was taken into secure care last year after exhibiting very extreme behaviour including self-harm and fire setting.

The court heard she responded well to the secure environment but reverted to her old behaviour and even assaulted staff when she was transferred to a step down unit last October.

Things deteriorated further and she ended up in emergency hostel accommodation two nights this week which meant she was on the streets by day – and in the company of a man who allegedly sexually abused her.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, agrees the girl should be in secure care but unfortunately there is currently no place for the teenager - and they don't know when one will become available.

In the meantime, the teenager will stay in a care unit overseen by a psychologist and social worker.

Angry teen banned from his own home by judge at Dublin Children's Court


A troubled teenage boy has pleaded guilty to damaging his family home after his upset mother got him prosecuted in an effort to get him help.


The boy, who is in his mid-teens, was temporarily ordered to remain away from his family home, after he pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children's Court to a criminal damage charge.


Judge John O'Connor ordered the boy to reside with another relative and adjourned the case for a pre-sentence probation report to be obtained. He also ordered the Child and Family Agency to hold a family welfare conference.


Judge O'Connor said the teenager fell into a familiar category which involved cannabis abuse, an inappropriate peer group and dropping out of education.


Garda Edward Walsh told Judge O'Connor the boy's mother reported that her son had been damaging their home on numerous occasions over previous months.


There was “extensive damage” to walls and doors, “done by hand and by an instrument we have not identified yet,” said Gda Walsh who agreed that the boy has no prior criminal convictions.


Defence solicitor Michelle Finan said social services have already been involved with boy who had previously spent time in care.


There had been difficulties in the family and the mother didn't take the decision lightly to have her son prosecuted. Ms Finan also said the boy is “hurting over a lot of issues” and another family member was willing to take him in.


The teenager had completed the Junior Certificate but there were issues with his school and afterwards he enrolled onto a training course but “ran out of steam” and left, Ms Finan said.


However, the boy wants to get back into the course, she added.


His mother and another relative were in court for the hearing.


The defence lawyer explained that the boy's parents had split up in recent years and “he has taken it very hard to handle”. He has not spoken to his father in a long time, the solicitor also said.


“It got so bad at home that his mother was not able to manage him. There were concerns over who he was hanging around with,” the lawyer said, “his mother is looking for help for him and for herself”.


Ms Finan said the teenager found it hard to handle his anger and at one point he was placed in care but later went missing and was staying in hostels in Dublin. “His mother did not know where he was”.


He was also “red-starred” by the Garda juvenile liaison office meaning he is no longer eligible to being let off with a caution and must face court. The teen remains angry that his mother has had him prosecuted, the court heard.


The judge was also told the boy has one other theft related charge before the courts and that it was suspected he has been using cannabis.


The prosecuting garda also succeeded in getting a bail condition banning the teenager from hanging around with nine other youths.


The boy spoke once during the case to clarify what people he has been barred from associating with and the judge explained the bail conditions to him.


The teen was told that for the time being he will have to stay away from his mother's home. He must reside with another family member and obey a curfew at their address.


The judge warned him bail would be revoked if the conditions were blatantly broken but he also explained that they could be relaxed at a later stage if there has been compliance with the court order.

Care home complaints 'very disturbing', says standards watchdog


The nursing standards body has described as "very disturbing" a dossier of complaints relating to residential care homes which is currently being investigated by gardaí.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) was commenting after reviewing 700 complaints received by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) over the past two years.


The body, which can conduct fitness to practice hearings in cases of alleged misconduct by registered nurses, said it could not investigate the individual complaints as they had been anonymised.


However, it pledged to use the information in future revisions of standards for its education programmes and professional guidance documents.


The NMBI was supplied with the dossier by Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, who obtained details of the complaints under freedom of information rules.Under these rules, the names of residents, their care homes and the identity of care staff could not be disclosed.


Gardai began investigating the contents of the dossier last month. Officers are now seeking unredacted documentation from HIQA so the complaints can be examined further.


The file contains alleged incidents of physical, mental, sexual and financial abuse in homes for the elderly and people with intellectual disabilities.


In a letter to Mr O'Dowd, the NMBI's acting director of regulation, Ursula Byrne, said the complaints "make for very disturbing reading".


She said the board was not in a position to respond to the complaints as individual nurses and healthcare facilities were not identified in the dossier.


However, she said it may well be the case that some of the complaints had already been brought to the NMBI's attention.


Ms Byrne said the board had taken a proactive approach in relation to guiding nurses and members of the public on standards of care.


This included the recent publication of a new code of professional conduct and ethics.


The complaints were made to HIQA by a variety of people, including care home workers, residents and their relatives.


However, HIQA does not have the power to investigate each complaint individually and can only consider them as part of overall inspections.


The Department of Health said last night it was considering a legislative amendment tabled by Mr O'Dowd which would give HIQA the power to launch investigations.


"The description of these complaints as 'very disturbing' by the nursing board is yet another indication of how serious this situation is," said Mr O'Dowd.


"It is imperative that this issue is dealt with quickly by the Government. The current situation is not acceptable."


The adequacy of HIQA's powers came under the spotlight last month when it emerged two inspections of the Aras Attracta care home in Swinford, Co Mayo, had failed to uncover the scale of the abuse occurring at a unit there.


At present people with grievances are urged to bring them to the care home in the first instance. However, in many of the complaints to HIQA, people were unhappy with how homes dealt with their concerns.


Complaints can be made to Ombudsman if someone is unhappy with the care home's response, but only in the case of state-run homes.

Parents of girl who missed 381 days of school facing jail


The parents of a young girl who missed 381 days of school since 2012 have been given a chance to avoid jail.

The 14-year-old has gone to school on just 26 dates since September 2012 and should be preparing to sit the Junior Certificate exams this year. However, she missed so many days she is now "anti-school", Dublin District Court heard.


The court also heard the girl's mother once claimed to a school attendance official that her truant daughter had moved to the UK and was living with a relative there.


Education and welfare officer Jennifer Redmond told Judge John O'Neill that the woman said her daughter, "is a Traveller girl and she would not be attending any school in England or at home".


The Child and Family Agency (CFA) brought the prosecution against the parents because the girl consistently missed school since she made the transition to secondary level education.


They could each be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month after pleading guilty to breaking section 25 of the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning to ensure their daughter went to school.


Judge O'Neill agreed it was an "appalling" situation and adjourned the case for four weeks warning them: "I have explained what is facing you if you do not co-operate."


The teen started secondary school in September 2012 and over the next year was absent on 156 out of 167 days.


In second year, 2013 - 2014, she missed school on 152 days out of 167 and since the beginning of her third year, in September, she has not gone to school at all, missing 73 days.


She has missed almost 94pc of school days since she enrolled in a secondary school.


Ms Redmond told a solicitor for the CFA that the girl's parents had not co-operated or responded to the agency.




She said the only way she could speak to them was by calling to their home unannounced as they would not return phone calls or letters.


The CFA told the court the family had also made claims the girl had not gone to school because of a bullying problem. However, it emerged it was online bullying not connected to her school, and the problem had been resolved.


The girl had also told the education and welfare officer that there was not a bullying issue. The CFA also accepted that there had been a family tragedy in recent years which had affected the girl.


The parents later told the CFA they wanted the girl to move to another school. In September 2014, they were given application forms but "to date they have not returned that form to the school".


They had also been warned that in the meantime the teenager would have to keep going to her existing school placement but she did not attend.


Adjourning the case, Judge O'Neill said there was no excuse and he was concerned the parents had not responded to the CFA. He also said that if necessary he will speak to the girl to explain her mother and father could be sent to jail.

State handling of childcare cases under scrutiny


Implications for Tusla over refusal of care order after ‘inexcusable’ delay


A District Court judge has asked for an inquiry by the Ombudsman for Children into the delays in a childcare case where two children were in temporary care from their birth for five and three years respectively following their parents’ arrival in Ireland from another jurisdiction.

In a judgment delivered in November, the judge refused full care orders until the children were 18 and ordered they be returned to their parents. He described the delay in the case as “inordinate, inexcusable and entirely unacceptable”.

This judgment will have implications for the Child and Family Agency (Tusla), especially in cases where children are born in Ireland days after their mothers arrive here from other jurisdictions.

Recent years have seen dozens of cases in which mothers, mainly from the United Kingdom, come to Ireland in late pregnancy when they have been informed care proceedings will be brought to take their child into care at birth. Care proceedings in the UK can lead to the child being adopted.

Usually the Irish authorities are informed the child is at risk and the child is taken into care. This does not lead to adoption here, and the parents remain in contact with the child.

In many cases Tusla obtains an order in the High Court under EU law that the child be returned to his or her country of origin, on the basis that the child has no connection with Ireland and the courts there are best placed to judge what is in the child’s best interests.

Care proceedings

In this case the parents arrived in Ireland more than five years ago from the other jurisdiction three days before the birth of the first child. Two of their children had already been taken into care following evidence that one had been sexually abused. The parents denied responsibility, no one was prosecuted and no perpetrator has been identified. The parents had been informed that their unborn child would also be the subject of care proceedings, leading to their flight to Ireland.

Two years later another child was born, who was also taken into care. The parents had married a month before the birth. The parents had supervised access with both children and the judge said that, from the evidence given to the court, the access had been positive.

The judge said the failure of Tusla (which took over the case from the Health Service Executive) to call evidence from the other jurisdiction relating to the serious allegations against the parents was fundamental to his determination of the case. To decide the case in the absence of such evidence would violate the respondents’ constitutional right to a fair hearing, he said.

Serious allegations

The judge said the Tusla case was based primarily on the events relating to proceedings in the other jurisdiction and the court orders made there. He said no evidence had been called by the agency to seek to substantiate the serious allegations of child sexual abuse against the respondents or their alleged involvement in such abuse or their alleged failure to protect their child from such abuse while in the other jurisdiction.

However, the judge directed that, if necessary, contact be established between the two governments to ensure appropriate protocols are in place in such cases in future so there are reciprocal arrangements for witnesses to give evidence in each other’s jurisdiction.

The proceedings for full care orders began in May and continued over 19 days. In his judgment the judge outlined the background to the case and discussed a range of legal issues, including the constitutional position of the family and the child; the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on the rights of the family; the interpretation of the childcare legislation; the different thresholds for various child protection orders; the admissibility of evidence where witnesses are not called to support it; and the role of a guardian ad litem in childcare cases.

While all of these matters will be studied carefully by Tusla, the judgment holds little comfort for those fleeing their homes to come to Ireland seeking to escape child protection proceedings. The judge criticised the agency for not seeking an order sending the family back to their own jurisdiction and directed an inquiry into why this had not been done in this case.

Decisions of the District Court do not set precedent, butjudges are increasingly writing judgments that are read by their colleagues and shape the conduct of childcare cases. This will inevitably affect the practice of the Child and Family Agency, which has been directed to improve the training of social workers in awareness of the law, to ensure all relevant information is included in reports, to ensure allegations against parents are supported by evidence that can be tested in court and to ensure all childcare applications are processed speedily.

The full report on this case is contained in volume 4 of the reports of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, published today. Carol Coulter is director of the CCLRP and former legal affairs editor of The Irish Times

Child protection chief on ‘walking the talk’


Tusla chief executive Gordon Jeyes outlines the challenges as ‘year zero’ draws to a close

Standing in the gym of Dunblane Primary School on March 13th, 1996, where a lone gunman had opened fire on a class of five- and six-year-old children, killing 16 and their teacher, was a defining experience for Gordon Jeyes.

The children’s world in the small Scottish town was invaded in the cruellest way that day. It transpired afterwards that the killer, Thomas Hamilton (43), who shot himself at the scene, had both fought and evaded officialdom for 20 years, since being dismissed as a Scout leader in Stirling.

“My passion for children’s services was reinforced that day,” says Jeyes who, as director of education services with Stirling Council, led the authority’s “critical incidence” response to the school massacre.

Almost two decades later, his management of children’s services is being tested in a very different way here in Ireland, as chief executive of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which is just completing its first year – or “year zero” as Jeyes likes to call it.

The establishment of this standalone, national agency for child protection on January 1st, 2014, was heralded by the then minister for children, Frances Fitzgerald, as Ireland moving “beyond a ritual dance of shock and dismay at recurring exposés of child neglect to practical action”.

One year on, can Tusla stand up to that claim of it being a new era for at-risk children?

“I think we can,” says Jeyes, pointing out that its work has to be put in the context of reform that has been going on for the past few years. “I think we have picked up the pace. I think there is greater coherence.”

With more than 500 recommendations from an astonishing total of 29 major inquiries and reviews into child-protection failings since 1980 in its “in tray”, the agency has drawn up a three-year corporate plan that is due to go before the Dáil.

“We have made a start against a background of austerity. The progress might be slower than impatient people like myself want but we’ve got momentum now. I meet many critics, including internal ones – I mean that in a good sense, I need people to tell me and to keep it real – but I rarely, rarely meet anyone who says it is not improving.”

With the agency’s staff of 4,000, mostly hived off from the HSE, a cynic might say you can take the staff out of the HSE but can you take the HSE out of the staff? Jeyes himself, shortly after he came over from Cambridge four years ago to become HSE national director for children and family services, described the organisation’s culture as “appalling”.

Infelicitous Sitting in his fourth floor office in St Stephen’s Green House, in Dublin, with pink-lidded grey storage boxes stacked in the corner in preparation for a January move to Brunel House in Heuston South Quarter, Jeyes drops the steady gaze of his grey-blue eyes when those comments are raised. They were recorded and passed on to RTÉ without his knowledge, he says, but “it was infelicitous – I shouldn’t have spoken that way”.

Laying that aside, it is “certainly the case and extremely challenging that I want to have a particular culture in the Child and Family Agency based on values”. Its three-year corporate plan has a clear statement of values, he says.

“Getting people to agree values is not difficult; getting people to behave in a respectful, or courageous or compassionate way reflecting these values is very hard. I know it’s a terrible cliche but I want us to walk the talk; I want us to be judged by how I behave – being authentic to the press, being responsive to people who inquire to us.”

Within the HSE, child-protection services had “issues of credibility, capacity and capability”, he says. “I think we have restored some credibility. I see confidence back in high-quality workers.”

He refers several times to the high calibre of the frontline workers – social workers and social care and educational welfare staff – and suggests that how they were managed and led was the issue.

Tusla still has a long way to go, he says, having inherited three very different cultures from the HSE, the Family Support Agency and the National Education Welfare Board.

“They all had distinct identities so creating a single culture is challenging – particularly when there is one predominant one, because people had learned in the HSE to behave in a certain way.”

What does he mean by “a certain way”?

“The HSE is being reformed under Tony O’Brien because it didn’t work – it should have worked,” he continues, his tone a tad tetchier. “But as soon as it began to not work, it became a broken brand, and the communications and management culture became overly defensive.”

Tusla’s executive manager, Eibhlin Byrne, who is sitting in on the interview, interjects to remind him: “You often talk about practice without fear and that sense of a supportive environment . . .”

“Yes – able to practise without fear,” agrees Jeyes, who likes to sum up his contribution to staff as one of high challenge and high support.

“If people are clear about their boundaries, are doing their best, know their role and how it complements the next role, they will have my unconditional support.”

Child-protection services fall under scrutiny when there is a tragedy, such as the death of two-year-old Hassan Khan, who was known to social services, in Ballybrack, Co Dublin last October. There is an ongoing independent review of how the various agencies interacted with the family before his death.

Some 9,000 cases of reported concerns about the welfare of a child were waiting to be allocated a social worker, a Dáil committee heard last July. The figure came from Tusla after Jeyes introduced what he calls a “measure the pressure” report.

He won’t let staff use the term “waiting list” but this back-up of cases is not static, he says. “They will have been reviewed and triaged and anything that is vital will have been passed on.”

Indeed, he says they are looked at weekly by team leaders or others and that some referrals should be closed but others will get worse before they get to them.

Inevitably, resources are an issue. Tusla was set up with an annual budget of more than €600 million but Jeyes said ahead of Budget 2015, that the agency would need an extra €45 million just to stand still. The agency was allocated half of that.

“It means we have to look to further efficiencies in the ways we engage with partners.” While still under discussion with the board, its budget will reflect the priorities of child protection, of educational attainment, of domestic violence and of family centres.

Insufficiently funded “There will be further trimming because we need to create a sustainable budget so that we are ready to live within our means.”

The agency is not sufficiently funded and does not have a wide enough range of services, he argues, but at least it is no longer the Cinderella service of a large health service.

Ireland should recognise and celebrate where many of the children’s services are first class, he says, such as foster care (accounting for about 93 per cent of children in State care). “The fact that we have less than 400 young people in residential accommodation.”

While he promises an announcement in the new year about a more formal aftercare system, better integrated services for domestic violence and the appointment of specialists to work with children who exhibit sexually abusive behaviour, Jeyes would like to see the agency being able to do more in areas such as mental health and on alternatives to placement in care.

He talks about the importance of children, families and communities being well-informed and supported to make good decisions.

“The big threats to teenage health are bad decision-making about drugs, about alcohol, about sex, about diet, about fitness and about their attitude to learning and sticking at it.”

Tusla also needs to be a firmer advocate for children with the Government, he suggests, when it comes to issues of housing, health and education. “We can’t do everything.” For the mammoth task of organisational change that Jeyes is driving, 12 months is nothing. But a year in the lives of the children on whose behalf Tusla is making decisions all the time can be a very long time. At the risk of sounding pejorative, how does he sleep at night?

“What some people don’t understand is that every judgment we make is about risk. Leaving a child with the parents can be risky; removing a child from a home can be risky; challenging a judge who doesn’t give access is risky; challenging a judge who does is risky.”


Corporate things He continues: “What keeps me awake at night is corporate things – like irrational discussions about budgets. In other words, I can stand criticism as well as the next person, I am very experienced in that – I think I have proved that by staying here four years. A lot of people might have expected me to give up by now.”

Is it that bad? “Absolutely. This is pretty demanding.” The children’s services in Ireland, he says, have been like a neglected child – and then shown the door when it became a truculent teenager.

“We need to stand up for ourselves and make sure children are seen and are heard.” To ensure it doesn’t become the “well that’s where we put the naughty children and move on” service.

In what little spare time he has, Jeyes, who grew up in Gourock on the west coast of Scotland, relaxes at home with his wife in Howth, Co Dublin. Coincidentally, their only child married a woman from Dublin, 18 months ago and also lives here.

“I go for what passes as running on the beach. I sit and stare at my nine-month-old grandchild. I read voraciously.”

He had never read John McGahern before he came here. “What a find he was for me. I know some Irish people think he is too truthful and too dark . . . but for me it’s the beauty of the writing.”

Today’s Ireland, adds Jeyes, is an “outstanding place” for a child to grow up. “We just have to make sure that high-quality, Irish childhood is accessed by everyone.”

For more information, see

Calls for single inspection service

Pre-school inspections is one of the roles that Tusla took over and Gordon Jeyes questions the wisdom of the Department of Education now recruiting its own inspectors for early years services, as announced by Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan last September.

While these services, he says, are about learning as well as care, there should be a single inspection service covering the Síolta and Aistear curriculum guidelines and the care standards.

The decision to have separate inspections is “not particularly strategic”, he suggests, choosing his words carefully.

“I presume, it is an interim stage. I don’t think it makes much sense to have the Pobal improvement and advice service separate as well. The bits of that jigsaw are there but they are not necessarily joined up and in the right place.”

For its part, Tusla is very clear about its role as a regulator and is in the process of recruiting more inspectors, bringing it up to 48 (from about 38 at the start of the year) as well as having appointed four regional managers and an interim national manager.

As a result he promises more frequent inspections of the country’s pre-school services.

However, he argues that what the Prime Time creche exposé of May 2013 showed, was “not so much a failure of inspections as a failure of service”.

There is still a need for the Government to pull together an early years strategy, which is not the business of Tusla.

“It is not for me to say but Ireland has got to make up its mind on early years services – is early years a public good, is it an expansion of education or is it just somewhere that families can leave their children as a private transaction so that they can go to work? Or is it a combination of all of those?”

To the mention of the sector’s complaints that the inspection service is “unsatisfactory”, he responds: “Well, I find Hiqa [Health Information and Quality Authority] very unsatisfactory. We’re the Hiqa in this situation.”

Tusla is also moving towards a registration system of pre-school services once the Government gives it the green light.

“I believe the Government has agreed a registration fee, which is very modest,” he adds, but one he’s not going to disclose prematurely.

Jeyes on:

Changing the culture: “Getting people to agree values is not difficult; getting people to behave in a respectful, or courageous or compassionate way reflecting these values is very hard.”


Decision-making: “What some people don’t understand is that every judgment we make is about risk.” Backing staff: “If people are clear about their boundaries, are doing their best, know their role and how it complements the next role, they will have my unconditional support.” Sleepless nights: “What keeps me awake at night is corporate things – like irrational discussions about budgets.” Staying the course: “A lot of people might have expected me to give up by now.” Critics: “I have never found my Irish colleagues shy of telling me what’s wrong and what we are not doing enough of.” Combating negativity: “Biggest responsibility is turning critics into contributors.”

New allegations of mistreatment at Co Tipperary disability centre


Ten staff placed on leave as HSE investigates complaints at Daughters of Charity centre

Ten staff members at a centre for people with intellectual disabilities in Co Tipperary have been placed on leave followed allegations of mistreatment.

It follows complaints by members of the public and issues raised as part of an investigation by the State watchdog for care standards into the Daughters of Charity residential centre in Roscrea.

In a statement, the Health Service Executive – which funds the facility – confirmed staff had been placed “off duty” as a protective measure pending an investigation of the allegations.

Gardaí have also been notified of the allegations.

The HSE said it was conducting a detailed examination of the claims and has established a safeguarding team to help support the Daughters of Charity to deal with concerns.

The investigation comes to light just a week after the HSE announced a separate investigation into care standards at Aras Atttracta, a disability centre in Co Mayo.

It was prompted by shocking footage broadcast by RTÉ last week which showed residents being manhandled and shouted at repeatedly by a number of staff.

These latest allegations relate to care practices at two residential units in Roscrea. The Daughters of Charity provides care for more than 130 people with disabilities across a range of houses and group homes in the wider community.

Hiqa has also been conducting a follow-up inspection in recent times on foot of a number of complaints.

Responding to reports of the investigation, Minister of State with responsibility for disability Kathleen Lynch said that while the details of the allegations were worrying, she was encouraged that poor standards of care were being investigated.

She said she anticipated that more concerns of this nature will emerge following the revelations on RTÉ last week.

“While it is worrying for all of us that this has happened, it is also encouraging that the service being carried out by HIQA is uncovering concerns of poor and unacceptable standards of care,” she said.

“It is only through exposing these practices that we can start to effect improvements in care for the most vulnerable people in our society,” she said.

The HSE, meanwhile, has urged staff and clients to make complaints where they are aware of abuse or bad practices towards any vulnerable people.

The executive says it will respond to all such complaints in an appropriate and expeditious manner.

Earlier this week it announced that disability campaigner Leigh Gath had been appointed as a “confidential recipient” and would handle any complaints where a whistleblower has concerns about being identified.

It said other complaints can be made directly to the HSE through its “your service your say” e-mail address,

This move followed calls by organisations representing people with intellectual disabilities who called on the Government to appoint a confidential recipient to deal with abuse allegations in residential disability centres.

Groups such as Inclusion Ireland and the Special Needs Parents Association say they received extensive allegations of neglect and abuse in a number of residential centres in recent days.

The HSE last week apologised to residents at Aras Attracta and their families over their mistreatment at the hands of staff.

All the recommendations from a recent Health Information and Quality Authority report into Áras Attracta in Swinford had been implemented, it said.

Almost 500,000 calls to Samaritans in busiest year


Charity says callers starting to see contact as first port of call rather than last resort


Mental health charity Samaritans recorded its busiest ever year in 2014 after it introduced a free phone service.



The organisation answered more than 470,000 phone calls, 12,000 emails and 8,000 text messages over the past 12 months, according to its Impact Report for Ireland.



Executive director of Samaritans Ireland Catherine Brogan said there is no longer a barrier to contacting the charity. “Since we removed the significant cost of a phone call . . . there is no longer a barrier for anyone who is struggling to cope to contact us any time of the day or night.”



The organisation previously operated a low-cost number but a deal negotiated with the telecommunications industry, the Government and the National Office for Suicide Prevention now enables people to get in touch for free. The charity experienced a 52 per cent increase in calls since the switch in March.



Samaritans received an average of 1,310 contacts a day in the 12 months from October 2013 to September 2014, an increase of 266 calls a day on average compared to the previous year.



Ms Brogan said callers are also starting to contact the charity sooner. “People are beginning to see us as their first port of call,” she said. “People don’t have to be suicidal to contact us.”



About 70 per cent of the calls come from mobile phones and the issues raised have remained consistent over the years: financial issues, family problems, loneliness and anxiety.



One volunteer said they receive a lot of calls from elderly people in particular around Christmas time. “They could be waiting for their children to get in touch with them but they don’t – so they feel lonely,” she said.



Minister of State with responsibility for mental health Kathleen Lynch said the benefits of switching to a free phone number were clear. “I hope that the telecoms industry now recognise the benefit of that partnership,” she said.



The increase in calls to the charity also highlights “the great need that is out there” for mental health support, she said. Samaritans can be contacted over the phone on 116 123 or at

Domestic abuse increases at Christmas, warns charity


Christmas is a time of intimidation, cruelty, and “sudden flashes of violence” for many women, according to a leading domestic violence support agency.


Women’s Aid also said children are used as “pawns” by abusive men during what should be a time of joy for them and their mothers.


It said it had already received calls saying the extra stress of Christmas was triggering more frequent and more severe domestic abuse.


However, it urged women in such situations to make contact via its 24-hour helpline and asked the public for donations.

Margaret Martin, the director of Woman’s Aid, said: “For most of us, Christmas is a time for celebration and for making happy memories. It is about reconnecting with friends and family and above all taking time out to relax at home.


“But for many women contacting us recently, the reality of Christmas is far from what it should be. It is a time of hurt, fear, intimidation, intentional cruelty and sudden flashes of violence directed at them and their children.”


She said women ringing Women’s Aid’s helpline were also disclosing that children were being directly abused and were witnessing the abuse at home.

She said that often the abusive man deliberately targeted the children and their hopes for Christmas in order to hurt them and their mother. She added that abuse by ex-partners was also very prevalent during the festive period.


“Abusive men can use the holidays to threaten the well-being of children, using them as pawns in control and intimidation during what should be a time of joy.


“Just because it is the festive season, it doesn’t mean that physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse goes away.


“Many women will work very hard to maintain the status quo, to keep some semblance of normality for their children.


“It is often in the aftermath of December 25 that we receive more calls from women, who are living in fear of assault or having taking steps to leave the relationship, suddenly find themselves and their children homeless and without means.”


Ms Martin said the helpline received, on average, 47 calls each day.


“We hear from women throughout the year who face a constant threat to their physical and emotional well-being,” she said.


“Our response is vital and we are committed to answering as many calls as we can. We need to continue to give women the support they need, when they need it, to escape abusive relationships.”


You can donate at or by sending donations to 5 Wilton Place, Dublin 2.


National freephone helpline: 1800 341 900, 10am to 10pm, seven days a week.

Summit to discuss abuse allegations at Aras Attracta


The HSE will host a "national summit for disabilities" today, at which senior personnel will outline the measures that have been taken to address the evidence of alleged abuse at Aras Attracta in Swinford, Co Mayo.


Minister of State with responsibility for Primary and Social Care Kathleen Lynch will also address the summit at Dublin's Aviva Stadium along with representatives from Department of Health and the Health Information and Quality Authority.


This evening, senior HSE officials are appearing before a Dáil Committee to discuss the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities in care centres.

Chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Jerry Buttimer, says it is important to restore trust in care services.


"We must ensure that changes will be made to ensure that the required standards of care can be given to people,


"Secondly that steps are taken to restore the trust amongst the wider public, and the families and those who need and use the facilities, and thirdly with wider society in how services are being provided in residential care settings."


He added: "Our committee are looking at the whole issue of intellectual disability; the meeting today is a first step on our discussion and on our piece of work around the issue of intellectual disability.


"We very much welcome the fact that the HSE have issued an apology and have promised an investigation [will] take place - but we as the committee… [are] charged with holding the HSE to account believe it's the first of a focused review of the treatment in congregated settings that will take place."

Child sexual abuse searches cut by Google changes


Looking for images of abuse down five-fold after search engine alterations, conference told

Changes to Google’s search engine has led to a five-fold reduction in searches for images of child sexual abuse, a major London conference has been told.

Ministers, including Ireland’s Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, police forces and internet giants signed an undertaking on Thursday to co-operate to remove images from the internet and identify and protect victims. Images identified by the Internet Watch Foundation will be blocked by major technology companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Yahoo.

Blocking restrictions

Meanwhile, Microsoft, Google and Mozilla are investigating “browser-level blocking restrictions” to prevent users accessing weblinks of known child abuse material via Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox.

The Google changes were introduced a year ago and have been rolled out to all of its language services. People who put in any of 100,000 search permutations for abuse images face warnings that they are breaking the law, and are encouraged to get help.

Although the fall in search numbers is welcomed, the majority of searches for child abuse occur on “the Dark Web”, which hosts thousands of websites that use anonymity tools to hide their address.

Ms Fitzgerald welcomed the internet companies’ cooperation. “Nobody wants these vile images,” she said.

15-year-olds recruited for organised crime


Children as young as 15 are being recruited into organised criminal gangs and are involved in drug dealing and so-called tiger kidnapping, an Oireachtas Committee has been told.


The Justice Committee is hearing submissions from four voluntary and statutory organisations on the prevalence and effects of gangland crime on communities.


It heard that children are involved with drug dealing and kidnappings and can earn €200 in 30 minutes rather than attend a youth intervention programme.


Gangs are also forcing the families of indebted drug users who have taken their own lives to continue paying their drug debts.


The committee was told that gang crime operates at both a low level and high level of intimidation and that one shooting will silence 40 people.


The committee heard that people walk with their heads down and will not make eye contact in areas where gangs intimidate whole streets.


The Dublin City Wide Anti-Drugs Campaign said communities are no longer standing up to criminal gangs because they are being intimidated and are afraid.


Anti-drug organisations told the committee that policing is no longer as visible as it was.


The Centre for Criminal Justice Research said a strong garda presence is needed in the communities worst affected by gangland crime not only to protect people but allow other initiatives to be developed.


Independent TD Finian McGrath said he knows people who will not go to gardaí because acid would be thrown at them and they would be burned out of their homes.


The Committee has also been told a multi-agency response is needed.


Anna Quigley of the Dublin City Wide Anti-Drugs Campaign called for the reinstatement of a minister to oversee the national drugs strategy.


She said there have been nine ministers over the past number of years, but there needs to be a junior minister dedicated to a drugs strategy with a proven track record on the issue.


She said there was a huge political response following the 1996 murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, but by 2002 that "had disappeared" and while the structures set up in 1997 are still in place, "there's no commitment to it any more".


The committee was advised to look at evidence around legalising drugs in Ireland.


The director of projects of the Ballyfermot Advance Project cited examples such as the legalisation of heroin in Canada.


Dermot Gough said there are a lot of problems with cannabis or weed in Ireland.


He said while it was viewed as a "soft drug" a few years ago; there are now a variety of problems with "young people and weed". 


Noting that 70% of prosecutions are in relation to drug possession, Ms Quigley said she would be in favour of decriminalisation over legalisation.


She said legalisation would be "far more complicated".


"We should have a discussion and look at evidence and looking at evidence what we are doing at the moment is not working", she said.

Áras Attracta scandal due to ‘accepted culture of abuse’


The sister of a woman who suffered sustained verbal and physical threats at Áras Attracta says the scandal has nothing to do with cutbacks and everything to do with "an accepted culture" of abuse.

Sheila Ryan, whose 65-year-old sister, Mary Garvan, featured prominently in last night’s Prime Time on RTÉ, hit out at any excuses put forward by officials after being faced with what her sister has had to endure.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke after she asked to be interviewed in response to clams the issues are due to staff shortages, Ms Ryan said regardless of worker numbers her relative was treated like she “didn’t have any rights”.

She said her sister had been at the home for 20 years and in institutional care since the age of seven because, “in those days, there were no services” for people with intellectual disabilities.

Ms Ryan said her family believed Mary was receiving the care she needed at Áras Attracta, even after the death of another relative in 2012 in circumstances now being investigated by gardaí.

However, the covert footage of the abuse Mary suffered — which included being kicked, threatened, and prevented from going to the bathroom — was something Ms Ryan said never expected to see “in the 21st century”.

“This is about an accepted culture of abuse,” she said.

“We heard about institutional abuse in the past, you’d think we’d have learned from it. These are people from the 21st century. It’s inexcusable, absolutely inexcusable.”

In the days since the HSE became aware of the RTÉ expose, Ms Ryan said she has been contacted by “various managers assuring us they will do this, that, and the other”.

However, she said that until less emphasis was put on cutbacks and more on “setting out a culture” of care for vulnerable people, she was not confident changes would take hold.

“The Áras Attracta website says now that €1.2m has been put aside for a national action plan for no abuse,” said Ms Ryan.

“Why only now, what have the managers done? The buck stops at management level.”

Speaking on last night’s programme, NUI Galway’s director of the centre for disability law and policy, Gerard Quinn, mirrored Ms Ryan’s anger, saying: “It’s a relationship of threats and physical force. I’ve seen footage like this before but, to be frank, it’s from eastern Europe, it’s not from Ireland, and I feel ashamed about this.”

Covert inspections of facilities possible

Health Minister Leo Varadkar may send in undercover inspectors to find out the true scale of institutional abuse in health facilities, after admitting the current system is failing to protect those in care.

Speaking as RTÉ’s shocking expose into what is happening at the Áras Attracta home for people with intellectual disabilities was broadcast last night, the minister said the footage showed serious problems were being missed.

In July, state watchdog the Health Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) gave the HSE-run facility in Swinford, Co Mayo, a clean bill of health after previously raising concerns over its care. However, in 200 hours of covert footage by an undercover RTÉ reporter and a secret camera in late October and early November, the broadcaster found:

- Women aged 53 to 75 with severe intellectual disabilities kicked, hit with keys, dragged across the floor and sat on by a senior male manager;

- The same residents being told “nobody wants you”, kicked when they needed to go to the bathroom, and threatened when they didn’t sit in a seat properly, which involved pointing their head down and facing the wall;

- And staff joking about a former colleague who “you’d be afraid of” because she “reported everything”. They said it “worked against her” as “she’s not here” any more.

The incidents — which have caused outrage nationwide and led to separate HSE, Hiqa, and Garda investigations into the scandal — were confined to one of four units in the facility.

However, Mr Varadkar said the clear inference from the footage and the fact it was not uncovered by Hiqa inspections was that the existing system was not ensuring the safety of vulnerable people and that undercover inspectors may now be needed.

“Obviously the existing systems are not good enough. It is sad that we have to do it, but the only way to satisfy ourselves that this is not happening in other places is to have our own undercover inspections,” he said.

While the potential move appeared to be backed by HSE director general, Tony O’Brien, Hiqa’s chief executive, Phelim Quinn, said it may pose more problems than it solves.

The senior official said such covert operations may prevent successful cases being taken in court against perpetrators, and could impact on the “dignity and privacy” of residents at facilities.

Under existing checks, just 2% of the country’s facilities for people with intellectual disabilities are meeting clearly set out standards.

Meanwhile, despite the HSE launching its own investigation and Mr O’Brien explaining he and others should feel “betrayed” by the abuse in an email to all HSE workers, patient group Inclusion Ireland has said the HSE cannot be trusted to oversee the inquiry.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association’s national secretary, Noel Giblin, who worked at Aras Attracta from 2005 to 2010, said he was “shocked and appalled”.

However, he claimed the problems were “management” who told him residents were “the dregs of society” and staff shortages, despite RTÉ’s footage showing adequate staff levels.

Enda Kenny told the Dáil that criminal charges could follow the RTÉ expose of the care home.

Mr Kenny said the idea that people with intellectual disabilities could be slapped or sat on is “utterly intolerable and unacceptable to us.”

The Taoiseach said he greeted the news about the care home with a feeling of “dread and anger”.

Mr Kenny was responding to questioning from Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who said he had a family member with an intellectual disability.

“This behaviour has got to be rooted out once and for all. It isn’t only about Áras Attracta. This is not an isolated incident,” Mr Ó Caoláin said.

Undercover inspectors may be sent to care homes and creches


HSE chief Tony O’Brien urges staff to ‘blow the whistle’ on any instances of abuse


The Health Service Executive is considering sending undercover inspectors into creches and care homes to root out abuses by staff, according to its director general.

HSE staff who stood by while residents of a Co Mayo home for adults with intellectual disabilities were abused by their colleagues may be disciplined, Tony O’Brien has also indicated.

In a letter to senior staff about the allegations of abuse at Áras Attracta in Swinford, Mr O’Brien said he was seriously considering disciplinary procedures against such staff over their apparent inaction.

Mr O’Brien said it appeared a number of staff members, who were not directly involved in the alleged abuse but were present throughout, “merely stood by, said nothing and did nothing”.


This was a worrying aspect of culture that he thought had been long left behind in the health service. Mr O’Brien said the footage taken by an undercover reporter with RTÉ’s Investigations Unit had shocked and distressed senior HSE personnel to whom it was shown. “While not wishing to pre-empt the outcome of any investigation, I have been told that the footage portrays practices, behaviours and attitudes that are simply not acceptable in the health services and should not and will not be tolerated.”

Viewers who see the programme on Prime Time tonight would be shocked, he said, and families of the residents involved would be deeply concerned and upset. “Staff members throughout the health service I have no doubt will, like me, feel utterly disappointed and betrayed by what they will see.”

“While I may not always agree with the balance brought to health-related programmes by Primetime Investigates, it is clear that sending undercover workers/reporters into care settings has a certain value in exposing practices that otherwise may have continued for longer than it should. I have asked for the Social Care Division to discuss with me how the HSE can incorporate such an approach into our safeguarding and quality assurance process for settings where vulnerable adults and children are cared for.”

Mr O’Brien said it was even more disappointing that Áras Attracta was the subject of a recent inspection report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa). All the recommendations had been implemented and the facility received favourable reports from the authority on subsequent inspection.

“And yet the footage to be shown by RTÉ seems to indicate that unacceptable behaviour and attitudes towards residents in a unit within Áras Attracta still continued.”


Nine staff at the home have been suspended since the allegations came to light and an investigation under an independent chairman has been ordered. The gardaí are also investigating.

Mr O’Brien urged staff to “blow the whistle” on any instance of misconduct, disrespect or abuse towards residents they might witness.

Áras Attracta accommodates almost 100 people with intellectual disabilities. This followed a Hiqa report which found non-compliance with care standards.

Watchdog fears over safety risks at children’s hostel


The public health watchdog has expressed concern about significant safety risks identified during an inspection of an emergency hostel for homeless children in Cork.


Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) were informed that there was a high rate of unauthorised absence from the facility, with 610 such incidents recorded over the previous two years. A total of 87 absences were recorded as serious incidents, while gardaí were called to the centre on 95 occasions over the same period.


Hiqa officials claimed policies, procedures and practical measures to promote the safety of young people at the hostel were ineffective. However, they praised the vital and supportive service provided by a resilient staff to vulnerable young people.


The unnamed centre does not function as a mainstream children’s residential centre but as an emergency hostel for up to five young people at any one time.


The Hiqa inspection was carried out with the agreement of Tusla, the child and family agency.


Although such a facility is not governed by childcare legislation, its staff told Hiqa inspectors they aspired to adhere to the national standards for residential care.


Hiqa inspectors blamed the significant risk on a combination of factors, including the profile of the young people admitted and its admissions policy and lack of exclusion criteria. They also believed the hostel, which is located in a two-storey house adjacent to a busy road in a residential area, is unsuitable for its purpose.


Health officials noted many of the boys aged betwee 15 and 17 who stayed in the hostel had a history of challenging behaviour including substance misuse and engaging in crime.


In the months before the Hiqa inspection last June, there were several incidents of disturbance which had resulted in significant damage to property in the centre.


In the previous two years, 10 young people had been taken into custody on foot of court orders. The facility had recorded 92 admissions over the same period.


Hiqa said staff could not ensure the centre operated in a stable environment because its admissions policy was not to exclude any homeless young person, regardless of whether they had any history of substance abuse or criminal behaviour.


The hostel also had no risk management policy or risk register. Managers complained about the lack of clerical support which meant they had to undertake duties such as payroll and invoicing, meaning less time to supervise staff and oversee the care of young people.

Care leavers so at risk of homelessness they move home — charity


Some young people leaving care are at such a high risk of homelessness that they are returning to the family settings which led to them being placed in care in the first place.


The claim was made by Dublin-based Don Bosco Teenage Care Housing Association, which said it knew of at least four young people who had moved home on leaving care at 18.


The CEO of Don Bosco Care, Brian Hogan, said the situation highlighted the need for more after-care support for care-leavers, who previous studies have found are at an increased risk of becoming homeless.


Mr Hogan said the current situation had been exacerbated by the phasing out of bed-sit type accommodation in parts of Dublin City and by climbing rents.


“Our outreach workers are saying it is damn nigh impossible to find accommodation for them,” he said of the teenage clients leaving care.


“We know of four young people who are back living at home, which we would prefer would not happen.”


He said some of the young people affected had an intellectual disability and like many care-leavers, were at risk of loneliness and isolation.


Mr Hogan also said that returning back to fractious family setting was also “precarious”.


She added: “It takes very, very little for these young people to be out of their homes again. We need to catch them as they are exiting the care system.”


Previous studies, such as those carried out by Dr Paula Mayock of Trinity College Dublin, have highlighted the increased risk for care-leavers have of becoming homeless.


Speaking earlier this year to the Irish Examiner, the Minister for Justice, who was then Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, said she wanted to see an element of positive discrimination applied in the cases of care-leavers, so that it would be easier for them to access accommodation and benefits.


Mr Hogan said this was “laudable” but that while efforts had been made, that system was not in place.


A spokesperson for EPIC (Empowering People In Care) said the organisation was also aware of recent care leavers struggling to secure accommodation.


Karla Charles said EPIC was aware of a 20-year-old woman who, while in need of some support, had been capable of looking after her two children until she became homeless, prompting her to place the children in care.


EPIC has called for the provision of step-down accommodation for care-leavers.


Yesterday, researchers from Queen’s University Belfast released details of a study which showed that on one day in 2009, 8% of ‘Looked After’ children were living with their birth parents but still subject to a care order, despite the fact that care orders were issued where children were found to have suffered harm, or are likely to suffer harm, at home.

Hiqa to have new role overseeing reports into deaths of children in care


Decision a result of concern about serious incidents involving vulnerable young people

The State’s social services watchdog will have a new role overseeing reports into deaths or serious incidents involving children in contact with the care system.

At present a National Review Panel panel commissioned by Child and Family Agency examines the circumstances of these cases. The group is independently chaired by Dr Helen Buckley of Trinity College Dublin.

Under new changes, the Health Information and Quality Authority will have an audit and oversight role regarding these reports.

In addition, investigations into the State’s handling of these cases will be submitted to the Oireachtas.

Other changes aimed at bolstering the independence of the review panel include:

* A provision to ensure that serving officials from the HSE or the Child and Family Agency cannot take part in review unless it is at least two years since they left the organisation

* The review panel will report in future to the board of the Child and Family Agency in accordance with best practice, and not directly to line management

* Commitments from the Child and Family Agency to a more timely schedule in terms of the production of reports and required responses to any recommendations made by the panel

Minister for Children Dr James Reilly welcomed the changes which he said would strengthen the integrity of the panel’s work.

“We have few greater responsibilities than to learn from the mistakes of the past. The importance of the work of the National Review Panel cannot be over-stated.

“We must learn lessons from the examination of serious incidents or deaths relating to children who receive care.

Dr Reilly said the independence of the panel would now be enhanced with Hiqa playing a key role in auditing the independence of the process and for the first time reports will have to be laid before the Oireachtas.

The panel was first established by the HSE following concerns over the State’s handling of cases involving young people who died while in care or in contact with the care system.

An independent report subsequently commissioned by the State – described by its authors as a “devastating indictment” of social services – found that 196 children died between 2000 and 2010.

Of these, 112 died of overdoses, suicide, unlawful killings and other non-natural causes.

Tablet devices 'can cause depression in children'


Thinking of buying a tablet device for your child for Christmas? Think again.


Overuse of screens can lead to isolation, depression, stress, anxiety according to the CEO of Early Childhood Ireland.


A leading childhood care representative has challenged a recent study that has described tablet computers as a "vital new weapon" to combat poor reading in young children.


"We would certainly not encourage parents to run out and buy screens to encourage young boys to read more, based on this report," Teresa Heeney said.


"What parents have to 'gift' their child is the time and space to set up this habit of book reading."


The study, by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) in the UK, found that children aged three to five read for longer and had a better grasp of vocabulary when accessing touch-screen technology.


Parents are being told to turn to tablet devices to get boys interested in reading amid fears large numbers of children are shunning books at a young age.


Furthermore, researchers said that boys were more likely than girls to use tablets for longer and for educational activities.




Yet Ms Heeney maintains that the advent of this technology is "not helping the reading population in Ireland". "Some adults might be curious and somewhat intrigued at seeing how their young children relate to apps and screen-based games, seeing this as some sort of novelty, or sign of intelligence.


"But parents and guardians are certainly doing their child no favours by introducing screen time too soon and too often," she said.


The report from the NLT was based on a survey of more than 1,000 parents with young children combined with a poll of 567 early years workers.


Traditional books were still the favoured reading method for all children to read but researchers suggested that boys and infants from poor homes were increasingly shifting to technology.


Ms Heeney acknowledged parents must accept that "screens are a big part of a child's world" and maintains the solution is striking a "balance rather than banning all screen activity".

Mother successfully challenges plan to cut access to son in care


Judge rules boy should see mother weekly

The mother of a child in State care has successfully prevented the Child and Family Agency from reducing her access to her son.

The agency wanted to reduce access to once a fortnight, but the mother, her son and his court-appointed guardian believed once a week access should continue.

The boy has been in care for more than two years, Judge Colin Daly at the Dublin District Family Court was told.

There was a history of domestic violence and he was “traumatised and sexualised” while his mother was his custodial parent.

On coming into care, the boy had demonstrated aggressive and oppositional behaviours. But since he moved foster placement to live with relative foster carers, the behaviours had reduced. He has weekly access with his mother at a supervised access house, the judge was told.

Under childcare legislation, the agency is required to give parents “reasonable” access to a child and a parent can make an application to the court to challenge that access.

The boy’s social care worker, who supervises access, said the boy tried to control and dominate his mother and was “hypervigilant” around her.

She said only 45 minutes of the two hours access was “quality”. She had tried to support the mother when the boy became aggressive, but she had told her to “back off”.

Quoting a clinical psychologist, the boy’s social worker described the mother and son relationship as “toxic”. He said the “habitual pattern” of weekly access needed to be broken and if there was fortnightly access, the boy might look forward to it more and there would be less negative behaviour. Under cross-examination, he agreed the boy had said he would like access weekly “because he’d miss his mum”.

The boy’s guardian said there was no evidence the current arrangement was harmful, no indications it jeopardised the placement, the boy’s mental health or his education. She told the judge he was very happy with his relative foster carers and wanted to see his mother every week.
She was disappointed the agency was relying on an access report written in June.

Different location
The boy’s mother said she wanted access at a different location and for longer and wanted to assist her son in taking part in a dance class. She acknowledged her son did try to “push out the boundaries”, but said he was easier to control than in the past.

She also asked how anyone could keep a child happy “sitting in a room just looking at each other and the social worker looking at us and writing everything down”.

Judge Daly said the boy was doing “remarkably well” in his placement and appeared to be managing access well. He changed access to once a week at the dance class for three hours; when the class was not taking place, access should revert to two hours at the access house.
He also said the agency should continue to support and supervise access, including working with the mother.

Victims of sexual crime may confront their attacker


New study on restorative justice calls for an agency to facilitate meetings with offenders

Victims of sexual crime who want to confront their perpetrators should be supported by the State in doing so, according to a new study on sexual abuse and restorative justice.

Restorative justice, which deals with victims and offenders by focusing on the harm arising from crime and resolving the underlying problems which caused it, has previously been ruled out for cases of sexual assault.

But the new study, which interviewed victims, offenders and their families - as well as judges - has called for a new agency and pilot project to be established as a "matter of urgency" to facilitate meetings between victims and offenders.


The victim-centred pilot project would be confined to cases where convictions have been secured for crimes including rape and familial abuse amid concerns that Ireland's adversarial criminal justice system is "inherently ill-equipped" to address the psychological impact of sexual crime.


The collaborative study was carried out by Dr Marie Keenan of UCD'S School of Applied Social Science, Facing Forward - a restorative justice organisation - and counselling psychologist Bernadette Fahy.


Barbara Walshe, chairperson of Facing Forward, said restorative justice has the potential to meet the needs of victims, the vast majority of whom do not see their perpetrator convicted because of under-reporting and only a small proportion of cases being prosecuted.


"This ground-breaking report highlights the need for 'an additional justice system' for sexual crime, one that is not adversarial; where the victim is central to the process and where the offender is held accountable for the harm caused," said Ms Walshe.


The Sexual Trauma and Abuse: Restorative and Transformative Possibilities study found that many victims who had never experienced restorative justice or who knew little about it had been thinking, imagining and even "fantasising" about questions they wanted answered by the offender.


Although fearful of how the actual event might be, victims had "a deep need to understand the motivation behind the crime and to confront the offender".


The study says that restorative justice is not for everyone, but victims should have a choice on whether it is part of the criminal justice system or runs alongside it.


Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan will attend a conference today where the report will be launched by Aodhan O'Riordan, Minister of State for New Communities, Equality & Culture.


The report is based on 149 interviews, including 30 victims of sexual crime, 23 sexual offenders, families of victims and offenders as well as members of the judiciary and others involved in the operation of the criminal justice system.


It says that victims recognise "very quickly" that an adversarial criminal justice system reduces them - and the harm caused to them - to being a witness for the State.


They also experienced huge difficulties with long delays following reporting; lack of information, not knowing how to navigate the system and their "heartbreak" when high evidentiary requirements resulted in only a very small proportion of cases being prosecuted.


The offenders interviewed were unanimously supportive of the creation of a restorative justice programme for cases of sexual violence and said if they were asked to participate in a restorative meeting with their victim or victims, they would do so.


The study backs previous calls for mandatory training for the judiciary and lawyers in the dynamics of sexual crime and victim trauma.

Government report to propose sweeping changes to child protection system


Scale of proposed reform suggest existing laws are no longer fit for purpose

A Government report is to recommend a major overhaul of the child protection system to help prevent vulnerable children from being failed by the State.

The advisory report by the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, says sweeping reforms are needed following controversies such as the removal of two Roma children from their homes last year.

In all, it contains more than 50 proposed changes to our childcare laws, raising questions about whether our existing structures are fit for purpose. The measures include:

A new emphasis on preventing children being admitted into State care unnecessarily through a new emphasis on “supervision orders” for parents

Amending legislation to ensure specialised supports are in place earlier to meet the needs of high-risk families and prevent crisis cases emerging

Introducing a legal right to counselling and support for children with mental health problems

Major reforms to the direct provision system to ensure young asylum seekers do not spend longer than six months in communal accommodation.

The proposals come at a time when campaigners say frontline services and child protection staff are operating against a backdrop of scarce resources, staff shortages and dangerously heavy caseloads. More than 9,000 cases of abuse, neglect or welfare concerns over children at risk were waiting to be allocated a social worker. More than 3,000 of these cases are classified as “high priority”.

Acute concern

Homelessness is identified as an area of acute concern, given the growing number of families who have lost their homes as a result of rising rents and caps on State-funded rent support.

The report says judicial scrutiny is required to help ensure supports are available to children living in homeless families. It also addresses areas such as the growing demand for help among young people with mental health problems.

A legal right to support is proposed, as are reforms to allow children aged 16 or more to seek counselling without the need for parental consent. At present, hundreds of children often wait long periods of time to get assessments for suspected mental health problems.

Social services, too, find they are unable to get speedy access to these kinds of services for young people.

Much of Dr Shannon’s report focuses on the need for changes to the direct provision system for asylum seekers given its impact on children. In all, more than 1,600 young people are growing up in the system. The report says these children should be moved out of often unsuitable, communal accommodation after a six-month period into more appropriate and family friendly settings.

Sexual offences bill to combat child exploitation


Upcoming legislation will also criminalise first-time purchase of prostitution services

A new draft Bill to be published on sexual offences will focus in particular on combatting sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

The General Scheme of the Criminal Justice Bill will outlaw the grooming of children. Offences will include the use of the web for sexual exploitation and sending of sexually explicit material to a child.

The legislation, to be published by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, will also criminalise the first time the purchase of prostitution services.

There will be additional provisions on harassment, indecent exposure and electronic monitoring for specific high-risk sex offenders.

It is a General Scheme, or a draft of the final Bill, with 62 separate heads.

Ms Fitzgerald has decided to retain the age of consent at 17 after her predecessor Alan Shatter had indicated he might lower it to 16.

Department of Health seeks cuts in Child and Family Agency


Tusla is struggling to respond to needs of thousands of children at risk of abuse and neglect


The Department of Health has privately lobbied for staffing numbers at the Child and Family Agency to be cut, internal documents show.

Staff transferred from the Health Service Executive to the new agency when it was formally established on January 1st of this year. But records show officials at the department were surprised at the large number of full-time staff – slightly more than 3,700 – that were due to be transferred to the body at the end of last year.

In correspondence with the Department of Public Expenditure earlier this summer, officials at the Department of Health said it had not voiced its objections as a result of “a number of miscommunications” as well as “severe staff shortages and pressure of work”.

Ultimately, the department has estimated that just fewer 3,400 staff ended up being transferred to the new body. However, the HSE had been told to reduce its employment ceiling – or staffing levels – by the earlier 3,700 figure.

“It is already clear that the ceiling transferred from the HSE to the Child and Family Agency is too high and needs to be revised downwards, even on a provisional basis,” an official at the Department of Health’s human resources unit wrote.


‘Substantial recruitment’

“The numbers which have transferred indicate that the Child and Family Agency are carrying a ceiling which is substantially higher than their actual numbers, paving the way for substantial recruitment into the agency.”

By contrast, it added, the HSE had been allocated an “unachievable” employment ceiling.

“The department would also argue that the new agency must bear a proportionate share of the unmet ceiling reduction for 2013 and the ceiling reduction envisaged for the HSE in 2014.”

The records were released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

Any proposal to seek staffing cuts at the Child and Family Agency would be highly controversial given the pressures facing the organisation.

Campaigners say frontline services and child protection staff are often operating against a backdrop of scarce resources, staff shortages and dangerously heavy caseloads.

More than 9,000 cases of abuse, neglect or welfare concerns over children at risk were waiting to be allocated a social worker. More than 3,000 of these cases are classified as “high priority”.

In advance of the most recent budget, the Child and Family Agency’s chief executive Gordon Jeyes said an additional €45 million was required next year just to keep services at a standstill.

He said that services had been cut to the bone and there was little scope for further cost savings.


Additional funding

However, the agency was allocated just over half that amount in additional funding in last month’s budget.

The failure to increase the budget significantly may result in cuts to family support services, vital prevention work and other frontline services.

Overall, the agency has a budget of just more than €600 million. Under a legal agreement with the HSE and other services, it has inherited liabilities of about €25 million.

UN report shows child trafficking on the rise


One in three victims of human trafficking worldwide is a child, many of which are subject to sexual exploitation or forced labour, according to a UN report from the Drugs and Crime office.

Overall, child trafficking has increased 5% since 2010, with girls and women accounting for 70% of the overall number of victims worldwide.

"There is no place in the world where children, women and men are safe from human trafficking," said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

The UN said the global figures represented only "the tip of the iceberg" and that impunity remained a serious problem.

"It is very clear that the scale of modern-day slavery is far worse," said Mr Fedotov.

Women and girls are often trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labour, while children are also forced into combat or to take part in petty crime, the report found.

In 2003-2006, about 20% of human trafficking victims were children, the report found, indicating how much the problem has increased over the past few years.

Children alone represent around 60% of victims in regions such as Africa and the Middle East.

The report also highlighted that the number of convictions remain low despite initiatives to combat trafficking.

"40% of countries recorded few or no convictions, and over the past 10 years there has been no discernible increase in the global criminal justice response to this crime, leaving a significant portion of the population vulnerable to offenders," the UN said.

About 15% of the 128 countries covered by the report did not record a single conviction, it said.

Obese children as young as ONE being treated at top hospital


Doctors at the obesity unit in Temple Street Children's Hospital dealing with youngsters suffering from breathing and liver problems

Children as young as one are being treated for obesity at a top hospital, it has emerged.

Doctors at the obesity unit in Temple Street Children's Hospitals are dealing with youngsters suffering from breathing and liver problems.

A number of the young patients also had high cholesterol and insulin levels.

And experts on the W82GO team say they are understaffed in the battle against the bulge.

Dr Sinead Murray told the Irish Daily Mail: "We could do more with better resources. We need a full-time paediatrician, a research team too, a psychologist among other staff."

Experts on the W82GO team are now testing a new app to help reduce obesity in children and combat the waiting lists.

And they revealed 40% of the 290 youngsters who attended the service already have high cholesterol.

The average of age of a child in the research was 10 and a half, while 50% of the youngsters had high insulin levels.

Government may appoint officer for child protection


The Government is to consider appointing a nationally recognised, go-to figure that children around the country could contact in confidence with complaints of abuse.


The suggestion was made by the abuse survivor Louise O’Keeffe in her first meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny since she won a landmark case earlier this year following a 15-year legal battle against the State.


The Taoiseach issued a public apology to her in January after the European Court of Human Rights ruled the State was negligent in failing to protect her from abuse by her national school principal in the 1970s.


The Cork mother of two had initially lost a High Court action, and then a Supreme Court appeal, and at times feared she would lose her home to pay for the legal costs. It was eventually heard in Europe despite vehement opposition from the State.


She told the Irish Examiner last night she would now like to see an apology issued to all those abused in national day-schools, similar to that made to victims of clerical sex abuse.


“The Taoiseach had issued an apology to me back in January. He did not reiterate the apology today. But he did congratulate me on staying the course and keeping going with the case because of my principles,” she said after the meeting.


“He said ‘well done’ to me. So, fingers-crossed that, because he appreciated the length of time it took, and the success at the end of it, for children, they will take that on board and we will have a positive outcome.”


During the meeting, which included Minister for Children James Reilly, and Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, Ms O’Keeffe was promised that 135 other victims of abuse in national schools would get a response from the Government before Christmas.


Some 44 of these people still have pending cases against the State, but the remainder dropped their cases when, just a month after Ms O’Keeffe lost her Supreme Court case, the State wrote to them urging them to do so.


Ms O’Sullivan told her yesterday that she would bring proposals to cabinet by the end of the year on how to respond to all those who had been abused in the national school system.


“I would be hopeful it would be done on friendly terms and that an apology will come to all of the people involved in those cases, and all of the children who have been abused in our schools,” she said. “It should have been brought to cabinet sooner, it has taken ten months up to now.”


“But we now have a commitment that we’ll know what decision will be made before Christmas. It’s a positive outcome that will end the waiting. It’s a long waiting game and for those who have been involved in those cases, so it’s vital that they will finally get an end and know where they stand.”


She said the child protection measures in place were still not adequate and called for a child protection officer to be put in place in each province, who would be independent of schools, the department of Education or the HSE.


“This person must be a person the child knows they can contact, they can talk to, and they will be believed by,” she said.


“It must be communicated, published, advertised, anything and everything must be done in terms of letting children know that this person is there and is at the other end of the phone.


“It is vitally important that they are overly familiar with this person who will listen to them.”


She said that when the child is making that phone call, “they’re already extremely vulnerable, they have no self-confidence at all, regardless of their age”. She said: “It can just take a split second to make that phone call. When they make that phone call, they need to have confidence in the fact that that person will listen.”


Dr Reilly gave her a commitment to pursue this idea and invited her to give a presentation to TDs and senators at an Oireachtas Committee when the Children First Bill is debated.

Government will not oppose adoption birth cert Bill


Philomena Lee backs law which would help women separated from sons and daughters by adoption

The Government will not oppose a new adoption Bill which seeks to give adoptees a right to their birth certificates, listing their original names and their birth parents’ names. The legislation was produced by Senator Averil Power, who was adopted from a mother-and-baby home, and is co-sponsored by Senators Jillian van Turnhout, a children’s rights campaigner, and Fidelma Healy Eames, an adoptive mother.

In theory, the draft legislation would provide up to 50,000 adopted people with the right to their birth certificates for the first time. However, while the Government will not oppose the legislation, it is likely to be amended significantly before any new law is enacted.

A spokesman for Minister for Children Dr James Reilly said he had “no difficulty in principle” with the Bill. However, following legal advice, he said there may be constitutional issues in relation to the provision which allows for the sharing of information without the requirement of consent from the birth parent.


“The Minister feels the Bill would benefit from wider consultation,” he said. “The Government agrees with him that it should be referred to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for further discussion,” he said”

The department was drawing up its own legislation and it might be that parts of the Senators’ bill could be incorporated into this legislation, the Minister’s spokesman added.

Legislation to enhance the rights of adopted people has been promised by the Government for the past three years. Under the terms of Senator Power’s Bill – which would apply retrospectively – every adopted person would have a right to their birth cert listing their original name and their birth parents’ names.

In addition, adoptees and the birth parents could choose whether they were happy to have their contact details shared with each other. However, parents would still have a right to prevent the release of their contact details.

Ms Power said she felt her legislation was not in breach of the Constitution, given that it sought to balance the adoptee’s right to identity with a birth parent’s right to privacy. “I welcome the Government’s decision not to oppose the Bill and look forward to working with them to get it enacted into law as soon as possible,” she said. “I would very much welcome the [health and children] committee’s input as the bill goes through the Oireachtas. However, it is vital that the legislation is not delayed. “Too many people are relying on us to make this change. “Philomena Lee, whose search for her son brought worldwide attention and an Oscar-nominated film, has thrown her support behind the Bill.

“If this legislation had been in place years ago, Anthony and I would have been reunited with each other before he died,” she said earlier this week.

“Instead, he died believing I had rejected him. It is too late for us, but would be a big help to other women who were separated from their sons and daughters by adoption. I hope every Senator will do what’s right and support it.”

Minister: Report into child's death unavailable until Gardaí finish investigation


The Children's Minister James Reilly says a report into the death of a two-year-old boy is unlikely to be available until the criminal investigation is complete.


Hassan Khan was found dead in his South Dublin home last month.


The investigation for the Child and Family Agency, Túsla, will examine how various agencies interacted with Hassan Khan and his family from early August, when he was the subject of a Garda Child Rescue Ireland alert.


Minister James Reilly says it could be some time before it's made public.


He said: "It does need time to do its work and this must be unhindered by our desire for answers.


"I wish to ensure the house that the panel worls independently of the Child and Family Agency and indeed any other State agency and there's neither fear nor favour in coming to its conclusions.


"The report is not likely to be available to us before the outcome of the criminal investigation."

Court ruling may affect welfare entitlements of one-parent families


Judge finds in favour of separated father wrongly treated as single person


A High Court ruling in an action by a separated father of four may have significant implications for the welfare entitlements of one-parent families. Among the court’s findings is the man was wrongly treated as a single person for the purpose of considering his application for rent allowance.

The unemployed Dublin man, who has joint custody of his children under a separation agreement with his ex-wife who lives in the west, won an order requiring the Department of Social Protection reconsider its refusal to grant him adequate rent supplement to allow him rent a home large enough to accommodate them.

Ms Justice Marie Baker ruled that reconsideration must be in accordance with her findings including a degree of support and dependency does exist between the father and children due to the joint custody arrangements, his provision for them via a capitalised payment under the separation agreement and the fact the mother lived in another town.

Given the joint custody arrangements, the children cannot be viewed as living primarily with one parent, or having one “primary” carer, as the deciding officer had found. The actual needs of the children are more complex, have been assessed by their parents as involving joint custody, and cannot be met in one location only, she said.

She found the department deciding officer applied the wrong legal test by assessing only the father’s accommodation needs without having any regard to the complexity of his family relationships, needs of the children and the “intrinsic interconnectedness” of those needs with those of their father.

The children live with their mother, who is working, and her new partner in the family home. Until his separation in 2011, the man cared for the children full-time at home.

He returned to Dublin in early 2012 to try and find work and lives with his parents. While he and his children have been deemed eligible for social housing, he has been told he will be on a waiting list for five years.

He challenged decisions he is entitled only to the €475 monthly rent supplement payment made to single persons. He had sought €900 to cover rent of a house to accommodate himself and regular visits from his children and give effect to the wish, supported by his ex-wife, of his oldest child, aged 16, to live with him.

The deciding officer found the housing and other basic needs of the children were met by their mother and, as he had received no increase in respect of the children on his primary social welfare payment, they were not dependent on their father for support and could not be regarded as dependent children.

Ms Justice Baker noted the legislation identifies a qualified child as one dependent for their “support” on a parent or guardian. While the class of relevant support was confined to financial support, that included more than monetary support and the deciding officer took an “overly narrow” view of what might constitute financial support.

In not having regard to the actual dependence between the man and his children, the officer incorrectly interpreted the relevant legislation so as to exclude the children from the category of “qualified” children in the rent application.

The deciding officer applied the incorrect test in treating him as a single man rather than the parent of four qualified children. A single person could not refer to a person’s marital status but rather to a person who lives alone.

The deciding officer erred in not having regard to the fact the children’s accommodation needs when they are visiting their father in Dublin are an element in the test of whether they are “qualified” children, she said.

The test for an entitlement to the allowance was whether a person can show their means are insufficient to meet their needs and those needs are assessed to include those of his children if they are qualified children under the relevant law, she said.

It was arguable the needs of the children may include their accommodation needs when they visit their father in Dublin and his argument he needed accommodation for their overnight, weekend and holiday visits was a “real” one.

The judge stressed she was dealing only with legal issues and not the merits of the father’s application for rent allowance.

While she was not saying a deciding officer may not come to the same decision after reassessing the man’s application, the officer’s decision took an overly narrow view of the test of the needs of the children for the purpose of considering whether they are qualified children.

This was not to say the needs of the children had to be independently assessed, the judge stressed. Her decision was not concerned with the rights of the children as they were not parties to the case, she added.

Father alleges access reduced after complaints of malpractice at care home



Boy has been in care for almost two years

A father has alleged that since his son who is in care made allegations of malpractice against the residential unit in which he lives, the Child and Family Agency has sought to reduce access visits with him.

The father said his son told him that when he was being restrained by staff his hand was bent backwards, that he was scraped on the face, that someone called him “a nigger” and he was slapped.

He told Judge Brendan Toale at the Dublin District Family Court his son “never had problems” with access visits, but when he started reporting on events at the care home, the agency sought to reduce visits.

The boy has been in care for almost two years and had no access with either of his parents for a period. Access was resumed earlier this year, initially every two weeks with both mother and father, but it was recently reduced. The father said his son wanted more access with him.

“I thought what a child wants is paramount,” he said.

Access visits

Details of why the boy and his sibling were taken into care were not open to the court, though

a social worker did say the boy told her he had witnessed domestic violence and the psychologist referred to “physical discipline”.

The mother had applied to the court to have access increased to once a week. The Child and Family Agency wanted her to have access once every two weeks, with access for the father once every eight weeks. They also wanted the interim care order for both children extended for four weeks, to which the parents consented.

Giving evidence, a psychologist recommended access in line with the agency plan. Sustained periods between access visits would help the boy to “internalise positive responses” experienced at the care home. She contrasted these with the “physical discipline” and “hostile responses” at home.

She acknowledged the child had told his court-appointed guardian he wanted more access with his parents, and said it wouldn’t be unusual.

“Often what a child says conflicts with how they behave,” the psychologist said. The boy had disclosed concern for his mother’s safety and access was a way of checking on her.


A solicitor for the mother asked about the boy wanting more access with his sibling.

“I’m here to comment on the application regarding the significant attachment figure,” she said. She explained how she prepared graphs mapping the boy’s behavioural difficulties, which included aggression and absconding, and said she believed there was an “association” between his behaviours and access visits.

“Association is a weak word,” Judge Toale said. Examining the graphs provided, he asked if it would be possible to have graphs made of when the boy had no access to his parents but there were still behavioural difficulties.

“I don’t see how you can come to any reasonable conclusion without a control period,” he said.

Also giving evidence, the social worker said she believed the boy had more stable periods when contact was reduced. She had concerns about the parents’ inappropriate behaviour at access. The parents, she said, raised subjects that hadn’t been “cleared with social workers”, such as going home and did not “reach out” at access, though she acknowledged that may have a “cultural aspect”.

The judge granted the interim care order and adjourned the issue of access for further hearing next week.

First step in blocking access to child sex abuse material on web


The first decisive step has been taken to block access to child pornography sites on the internet.


One of the biggest broadband service providers, UPC, has signed an agreement with the Garda authorities to restrict access to domain names containing child sexual abuse material. It comes into effect immediately.


It took seven months to complete the memo of understanding because of the legal complexities involved.


Gardai hope the other service providers will follow UPC's example.


If an user tries to access child sexual abuse material, either deliberately or mistakenly, a garda advisory message will be displayed, outlining the reasons why access is being blocked.


UPC Ireland chief executive officer Magnus Ternsjo said his company adhered fully to data protection legislation but stressed the agreement did not provide for any transfer of user data to the authorities.


He said the IP address and identity of a person trying to access domains was not stored when the blocking notice appeared.


"UPC does not make user data available to any external parties, except where required to do so by law," Mr Ternsjo said.


Acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan said legislation existed that allowed the force to require data from the service providers if gardai were investigating a possible criminal offence.


She said gardai welcomed UPC putting this valuable restriction in place and said other providers had indicated they wanted to sign up to a similar measure.


"This initiative will play an important role in tackling the use of child sexual abuse material online and dissuade some people from accessing it. However, we fully recognise that others, who wish to view, distribute and make this vile material will use different means to access and spread it online," she added.


Ms O'Sullivan pointed out that this is only one of a range of measures used by the Garda to combat the production, distribution and possession of child sexual abuse material on the internet.


Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald described child abuse as a heinous crime and said its depiction on the internet compounded the offence.


"The close co-operation with law enforcement will reduce the amount of child abuse material, available on the internet in Ireland.


"It will also reinforce the message that the viewing, possession of, or trading in, child abuse material is simply not acceptable," she said.


New legislation was being introduced in the Dail, resulting in the child pornography law being strengthened.

Parents put on alert as 191 toddlers eat capsules of detergent


Scores of young children are still suffering injury after swallowing brightly coloured detergent gel capsules which they mistake for sweets.

One toddler suffered corneal abrasion - damage to the surface of the eye - after exposure to the strong chemicals in a detergent capsule.


Three others suffered damage to their central nervous systems, affecting their breathing and heartbeat.


And 87 of the children who swallowed some of the contents ended up vomiting, according to the annual report of the National Poisons Centre in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.


Patricia Casey, the centre's manager, said it received 191 calls about these liquid capsules last year, 93pc of which involved children under five.


The number has gone up in recent years - two years ago the centre said it received 144 inquiries from parents whose children had swallowed detergent capsules or squirted the contents into their eyes.


The numbers of accidents involving the capsules remains significant, despite better packaging, and parents need to remember the hazard they pose.


"Most had swallowed the liquid," said Ms Casey in response to the latest figures.


A small number of cases involving children suffering mild symptoms after swallowing nicotine in e-cigarettes was also recorded. Other household products which children are at risk from include disinfectant, DIY decorative products, dishwasher tablets, air freshener and toilet cleaner.


The centre received another 148 calls about potential poisoning with household bleach.


Ms Casey revealed that 16 involved adults who ended up inhaling chlorine gas, released after wrongly mixing bleach with an acid household cleaner.


"People do not always read the labels and can get carried away with household cleaning."


The centre received 9,520 calls in total last year with the majority concerning accidental poisoning or medical errors.


Most came from doctors and hospitals but 2,545 were from the public, up 7pc.


An estimated 17pc of all calls involved intentional overdoses or recreational drug abuse. Most poisonings occurred in the home or domestic setting.


Paracetamol was the most common drug involved, and accounted for 1,689 poisoning incidents. This was followed by another common painkiller, ibuprofen.


Other calls to the centre were about possible poisoning from range of substances including multivitamins, oral contraceptives, and aspirin or other substances.


Ms Casey said 199 cases involved patients taking recreational drugs. Cannabis was the most common, followed by cocaine and heroin.


The centre followed up 271 the cases, and while the majority recovered, 12 died following poisoning, and 17 suffered medical conditions as a result.


Drugs were involved in eight of the fatal cases - and five of these were classified as recreational drugs.

Family Court: Father who left children in Ireland may be pursued


Father may face prosecution as abandonment an offence in home country

A father who left his children in Ireland and returned to his home country may be pursued for criminal abandonment, the Dublin District Family Court was told yesterday.

While abandonment was not a criminal offence in Ireland, it was taken very seriously in the father’s home country and he could be prosecuted for it there, a solicitor for the Child and Family Agency told Judge Colin Daly. The agency was considering whether to pursue the matter, he said.

The father left the State more than a year ago and left his young sons behind. The court was told while they were happy with their foster carers, they would prefer to be with their father.


A social worker said authorities in the father’s country told her the offence of abandonment could be pursued there no matter where in the world children were abandoned. If a complaint against the father was pursued it would mobilise social services and the police to find him, she said.

The agency had not received any contact from the father and he had not responded to emails, she said.

The boys’ court-appointed guardian said she had spoken to one of the boys’ adult siblings who said their father had been in touch and said he would travel back to Ireland for the full care order hearing for the boys next month.

The guardian said she was concerned about any possible delays to that hearing. The boys needed “stability and certainty” after “living in limbo” for more than a year. She also asked that the “highly intelligent” boys be allowed to speak to the judge in private before the full hearing.

Judge Daly said when deciding whether to pursue criminal action against the father, the agency would have to consider if it was going to drive the father “underground at a particularly sensitive time” as well as what was in the best interests of the children.

He extended the interim care orders for the children.

Threat to kill

Separately, a father who was denied access to his teenage daughter in care threatened to kill a social worker in court.

The father, representing himself, took an action to have monthly access to the girl. She had previously told Judge Daly she did not want to see her father but would accept letters from him. Her social worker said she had “adamantly refused” to see her father and it would cause her “a great amount of distress” if she was forced to. The father said he was “entitled to a relationship with his daughter”.

Judge Daly said it appeared the girl had been “quite traumatised” by access in the past and in her best interests he would have to refuse the father’s application. “That’s not good enough!” the man shouted and, into the face of the seated social worker he said: “I’m going to kill you!” He was escorted from court by a garda.

Childline fights for night time phone service funds


A Childline campaign took place in Limerick city this week as part of an emergency appeal for funding to prevent the partial closure of the charity’s phone services.


The Campaign Phone-Box Roadshow came to O’Connell Street in a bid to raise awareness of Childline’s plight and its need for €1.2 million to keep the night time service operational.


Alex O’Keeffe, Regional Services Manager West-Mid West Region, said that night is when some of the most vulnerable call for help and the loss of the service would mean the silencing of these children.


“I would have received a call at night from a little boy who was in his bedroom and he was very frightened because he was experiencing and being exposed to domestic violence from his parents,” she explained.


“It was very frightening and he needed reassurance to feel safe and to have somebody listen to him. It is very much about hearing the voice of the child.


“That voice was heard and that voice was valued. It is very much about providing safety and reassurance to the child during a situation where maybe their parents couldn’t find the time for that,” she said.


The loss of the service will mean that 45,000 night time calls could go unanswered in 2015 by Childline.


Childline has been operating in Ireland for 26 years and relies almost exclusively on public donations for its funding. The night time service has grown over the last 15 years to become a critical support to children in distress.


In many instances the late night calls are from children who, due to their domestic circumstances, cannot call at other times of the day.


Childline currently receives 1,800 calls per day, with night time calls accounting for about 11% of volume.


Caroline O’Sullivan, ISPCC interim CEO, said her greatest concern is for children in abusive situations, which accounts for 14% of Childline’s calls.


“These children really need us on a 24/7 basis and thousands of these children will not be heard next year if we cannot raise the funds to keep the night service open,” she said.

Shortfall in school funding can damage a child’s future


Studies show that high-quality tuition, smaller classes and support in schools can yield major dividends

Cake sales, raffles, bag-packing and “voluntary” contributions: schools are no strangers to rattling the can to make up the shortfall in running costs. But against a backdrop of cuts to special needs supports and falling capitation funding, many schools are increasingly reliant on fundraising to plug key gaps in the curriculum and – in extreme cases – basic teaching posts.

Inevitably, it is schools in the most disadvantaged areas – those with the least ability to drum up support from the local community – who stand to suffer most.

The eye-catching appeal by the parish priest of Moyross on Sunday to churches to donate gold and religious vessels to help pay for an important teaching post might have had the feel of a publicity gimmick, but at the local Corpus Christi primary school, the issue is serious: it faces losing a vital teaching post after missing out on a pupil-teacher ratio which would result in a merged class of 32 junior infants.

This is a school where many children are already lagging well behind their peers in other schools. Grinding poverty and, in some cases, chaotic homes mean many have a mountain to climb before they even enter the door of a school. But catch up they can: studies show that high-quality tuition, smaller classes and support in schools can yield major dividends.

At Moyross, for example, early intervention programmes have helped to bridge pupils’ gap with their peers in other schools by first class. Funding shortages for crucial teaching posts are not confined to deprived schools. Many primary and secondary schools are using privately raised money to continue offering special needs supports as well as subjects vital to children’s development.

Cuts to special needs support of 15 per cent as a result of austerity and capitation fee reductions of up to 11 per cent mean lots of schools feel cut to the bone.

An ESRI report last year showed 12 per cent of income in voluntary secondary schools comes from parental contributions. Most goes on basic expenses but school managerial authorities say it is often used to hire staff to plug important gaps. “Schools have no choice,” says Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body. “This isn’t fundraising out of choice – this is fundraising out of necessity”.

Pat O’Mahony, education research officer at the Irish Vocational Education Association, said a failure on the part of schools to meet funding shortfalls will impact on pupils. “If we’re genuine about education reform, improving outcomes for students and meeting the needs of children with special needs, we have to improve resourcing for schools.”

Family court urgently needed for vulnerable parents and children


High proportion of children in child care proceedings had parents from ethnic minorities

There are many complex issues involved in child protection. Difficult judgments have to be made between competing rights and sometimes tragic consequences can flow from a judgment that, with the benefit of hindsight, looks as if it might have been mistaken.

The second Interim Report from the Child Care Law Reporting Project, published today, demonstrates the kind of issues that arise. In it we publish statistics collected from our attendance at District Court child care proceedings around the country during the last legal year.

These showed that one in four of the child care cases in the courts involve at least one parent from an ethnic minority (including Travellers). One in six of them have a parent suffering from cognitive impairment or mental illness. The vast majority of the parents are single or separated and parenting alone. Nearly one in three of the children has special needs.

The data we collected included the reason the Child and Family Agency (previously the HSE) made an application for a care order (interim or long-term) or a supervision order; the ethnic background, marital and health status of the parent or parents; the number of children and whether they had special needs; whether they had guardians ad litem to represent their views and best interests; the length and outcome of the hearing and the kind of care the children went to.

The media have been reporting some of these cases since the amendment of the law permitting media reporting last January, and we have been publishing tranches of 25 or 30 reports on our website four times a year since the end of the 2012, so these cases are no longer shrouded in mystery. But what no individual case can convey is the scale of the vulnerability of so many parents and families.

Most of the cases concern parents who are vulnerable because of a mental or cognitive disability, drugs or alcohol abuse, and who are socially isolated, with little support from their extended family or community.

Almost invariably they are poor, surviving on social welfare. This in itself puts strains on parenting. If poverty is combined with a cognitive impairment or mental illness on the part of the parents (the vast majority of whom are parenting alone) and they have a child with special needs the situation can quickly unravel and the child will be at risk of neglect or, sometimes, abuse.

This underlines the importance of the early identification of such families and appropriate and targeted intervention. There needs to be integration of mental health services with child welfare services, despite the fact that they are now the responsibility of separate agencies.

Intellectual disability

Where parents suffer from a mild intellectual disability there are specific problems. This level of disability does not trigger supports for adults, and indeed it may go undiagnosed, but the challenges of parenting, especially if the parents do not have extended family support, can bring their difficulties to the fore and be too much to deal with without support.

We were surprised to find the high proportion of children in child care proceedings who had parents from ethnic minorities.

Census figures

According to the 2011 Census, 14 per cent of the under-19 population was from a non-Irish background. However, one in four children involved in these proceedings has a parent from an ethnic minority, including a small proportion of Travellers. This includes children with one Irish and one non-Irish parent.

Seven per cent are from Europe, almost exclusively from the new EU member states. More than 5 per cent are African, but these are concentrated in Dublin, where they account for almost 12 per cent, as against 2.5 per cent of Africans in the population of the State as a whole.

The disproportionate representation of non-Irish parents in the child care courts makes an urgent case for a renewed focus on integration policies, ensuring that those coming to our shores understand what is expected of them as parents. Social workers need intensive training in dealing with cultural difference to minimise the risk of care proceedings arising from misunderstandings.

The number of children from ethnic minorities also poses challenges for the fostering service.

This year two-thirds of the cases we examined were in courts outside Dublin, and we found significant variations between courts in the numbers of cases dealt with, the thresholds that triggered proceedings being taken, the types of orders favoured, whether they were granted and whether guardians ad litem were involved. But above all we saw that some courts are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cases they have to deal with.

Case overload

There is a de facto full-time child care court in Dublin, while Cork, Limerick and Waterford have specially designated child care days, but in most courts child care cases are heard on the general family law day, when there can be up to 70 or 80 cases on the list.

If the orders are not consented to, it is just not possible for child care cases to receive the attention they need and deserve. When there is a contest the case can face repeated adjournments spread over many months. These cases alone make a compelling case for the establishment of a special family court as soon as possible.

But the courts alone are not the answer to the problems of vulnerable families. Society as a whole must take responsibility for supporting them so that taking children into care is a last resort – albeit one that is necessary in certain circumstances. Carol Coulter is director of the Child Care Law Reporting Project. She is former legal affairs editor of The Irish Times.

Child benefit is ruled off limits in debt deals


Personal Insolvency Practitioners (PIPS) have been told that they cannot include child benefit payments as debtors' monthly income because it wrongly inflates their ability to pay their banks.


Child benefit is payable to the parents or guardians of children under 16 years of age, or under 18 years of age if the child is in full-time education.


Some PIPS, who are authorised to manage debt settlement and insolvency arrangements on behalf of struggling debtors, were including child benefit payments as monthly income for the purpose of proposing debt deals to banks and other creditors.


This month's Budget increased the rate of Child Benefit by €5 to €135 per month for each child from January 2015.


The Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) has written to PIPs to tell them that child benefit can not be used as part of any debt repayment plan. The ISI has told PIPs that child benefit is already deducted from the living expenses of a child under its guidelines on reasonable standards of living and expenses.


"This is done on the basis that child benefit payments are intended to be spent on a child," said the ISI in a circular.


"Failure to disregard child benefit payments from income of the debtor when preparing a proposal will effectively result in overstating the amount the debtor has available from which to make payments to creditors; the debtor will appear to have income despite the fact that this money has already been factored into the calculations of the expenses per child".


The ISI, which recently launched a new website, - aimed at people who are struggling with debt - said that some creditors are dissatisfied at the level of "prudent verification" being carried out by PIPs in relation to financial information provided by debtors in the early stages of the process.


PIPs have been told to question debtors more as to the veracity and accuracy of their financial documents to avoid debt proposals being rejected by banks.


The ISI has also advised that where a debtor and their family leaves their home, also known as the principal private residence (PPR), the family home should be recategorised as an investment property with a comment entered to reflect the "true position".

Sex offender claims breach of privacy in case over social media page set up to monitor paedophiles


A convicted child abuser should be awarded up to £100,000 in damages for being featured on a Facebook page set up to monitor paedophiles in Northern Ireland, the High Court in Belfast has been told.

Counsel for the sex offender claimed the breach of his privacy was among the most severe cases in the UK.

A judge was also told he planned to split any payout between compensating his victims and giving money to his own family.

The man, who cannot be identified, has brought a potentially landmark lawsuit against Facebook and page operator Joe McCloskey.

He is claiming misuse of private information, harassment and breaches of the data protection act. An order to shut down the “Keeping our kids safe . . . ” page administrated by Mr McCloskey is also sought.

Proceedings were launched after the man’s photograph and details appeared on the social networking site last year.

He served a prison sentence for a string of gross indecency and indecent assault offences against a young girl and a teenage boy.

Mr McCloskey has told the court he has “named and shamed” 400 sex offenders through the page. He denies being responsible for a witchhunt or hate campaign.

Fears new sex laws in North will drive crime South


There are fears that the Republic could become a soft target for traffickers, pimps and thugs following a new legal ban on paying for sex in the North.


The landmark vote in the Assembly at Stormont this week paves the way for the ban to become law in Northern Ireland.


Stormont's Justice Minister David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party, opposed the historic clause in the Human Trafficking Bill. Opponents of the ban claimed it would merely drive such practices underground. However, it passed by 81 votes to 10.


Paying for consensual sex is currently legal in the North - although soliciting, brothel keeping and pimping are against the law.


The Immigrant Council of Ireland warned that pimps who see their business collapse in the North may increase their activity south of the border.


The Council was one of a number of organisations from the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign which appeared before the Stormont Justice Committee to brief members ahead of the vote.


The council's chief executive Denise Charlton said: "The vote sends a direct message to pimps and traffickers that Northern Ireland is no longer open for business - however, there must now be genuine concerns that gangs which are losing out in the North will concentrate south of the border."


She said: "It is time for TDs and the Government to end the delay in introducing similar laws here and prevent that happening. Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has already spoken of targeting demand to smash the business model for pimps and traffickers.


"Together with the 72 partners of the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign, we are encouraging her to follow her words with action before traffickers exploit the difference in laws on both sides of the border."


The new laws in Northern Ireland are proving controversial with a former senior police officer warning they are well-intentioned but ill-thought out.


Jim Gamble, who previously headed up the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency, said he believed the PSNI would struggle to enforce the new law - and that police will want to engage those who are trafficking and forcing victims into the industry.


The PSNI said it gave the move by the Assembly "qualified support".


Sex workers said it would drive the industry underground and put them at risk.

What is done after CRI alert child is found?


The Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) system was launched in May 2012 but first used more than a year later in the tragic case of the Chada family.


A CRI is issued when there is a suspicion a child has been taken without consent and where a risk to the child's safety or welfare is also feared.


The first ever alert in July 2013 ended with Eoghan Chada (10) and his brother Ruairi (5) dead at the hands of their own father Sanjeev (44), who was last week jailed for murder.


But several other alerts have ended without harm to the children involved.


When a child is located following an alert, gardai immediately launch a detailed review of the case to see what lessons can be learned for the future.


The child is then medically assessed and, if necessary, specially-trained family liaison officers are involved.


"Psychologists will advise us whether the child has sufficiently recovered to give a statement," a garda source explained.


"In years gone by, statements would be taken from all concerned as soon as possible. But that's not how it is done now. We give everyone time and allow specially-trained child investigators come in.


"If a psychologist says the child isn't fit to be interviewed for a week, then, for medical reasons, we have to step back."


The source added that at all times the interests of the child must come first.

Pre-school children 'had access to knives' according to TUSLA report


Children with access to sharp knives and toxic substances, meals lacking nutritious value and rodent-infested premises are among a litany of areas of "deep concern" in a new report into pre-schools.

The report, by the child and family agency Tusla, has also identified a lack of garda vetting of staff.


There were a "small number of instances" where inspectors observed staff not engaging with children and "children not being adequately cared for in a way that met their individual needs".


In one case, children had to wear their coats because the room was so cold.


The report's author, Dr Sinead Hanafin, said breaches of staffing and management levels made up almost half of all non-compliance findings. Record keeping was also found to be inferior on a large scale.


"Given that the pre-school services were under inspection at the time these incidents were observed, it is clear there are some poor practices taking place, albeit in a small number of settings," she said.


More than 81,000 regulations were inspected in 3,007 facilities between January 2012 and May 2013. Overall there was a compliance rate of 74pc, while just under 14pc were found to be non-compliant. The remaining 12pc were deemed to be either not applicable or not assessed.


However, compliance rates differ considerably from region to region, with only a 53pc compliance rate found in HSE Dublin North-East, an area which covers Dublin north, Dublin North-Central, Meath and Cavan-Monaghan.


Almost one in four assessments of regulations were non-compliant there. Earlier this year, Independent TD Roisin Shortall revealed a shortage of inspectors was resulting in far fewer inspections compared with other regions.


The latest figures show only 477 inspection reports were submitted for the area - less than 16pc of all inspections. HSE West had more than double that figure, with 1,040 reports comprising nearly 35pc of the overall number.


HSE South (24.2pc) and HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster (25.3pc) made up the remainder. Tusla director of quality assurance Brian Lee said there were currently 42 inspectors but that this number would be increased.


"There's deficits in some areas. We have identified them and we're in the process of recruiting new inspectors," he said, and added eight inspectors would be recruited in addition to four regional inspection managers. He said Dublin North-East was a "priority".


Among the inspected services were full day care and child-minding and drop-in centres - typically found in shopping centres, supermarkets and hotels. Ms Hanafin said inferior conditions in drop-in services were a particular cause for concern.


The agency said prosecution proceedings are ongoing in the case of two centres.


New powers to be given to Tusla will include imposing conditions and potential closure orders.

€26m extra allocated to Child and Family Agency


The new Child and Family Agency, Tusla, which is responsible for the most vulnerable children in the State, is to get a budget of €625m next year, a rise of €26m.


Despite the rise, the agency remains under pressure in areas such as the allocation of social workers to many of the 20,000 children it is providing some social care to.


Minister for Children James Reilly, whose department received just over €1bn in total funding for services for next year, said that, since Tusla took over from the HSE, it has embarked on a programme of reform to improve the quality of service. The agency is getting €12.39m in its capital budget - an increase of €5.6m over the 2014 allocation to help meet the cost of its information technology upgrades.


"A key commitment of this Government was to end the use of the adult prison system for any young person under 18, and we are close to honouring that commitment with the completion of new state-of-the-art facilities at the children's detention centre in Oberstown. In 2015, I have secured a further €19m for this project, as well as an additional €1.8m to cover the costs of additional staff and costs associated with the new, larger facility," he added.


Other elements of the budget include the Early Childhood Care & Education Programme (ECCE), which provides a free year of pre-school care and education for 68,000 children and funding for youth services for around 380,000 young people to participate in a range of services and programmes.


"There is no doubt this will be another demanding year for my department...I intend to build on the hard work and effort invested by all those involved in working with children, both statutory and non-statutory organisations, in order to deliver on this Government's commitment to fundamentally reform the delivery of child and family services, " he added.

Creche subject to Prime Time investigation hit with 24 charges


A crèche which was subject to an RTE Prime Time investigation has been hit with 24 charges at Dublin District Court.


The prosecutions are being brought by the Tusla, the Child and Family Agency against the Links creche in Malahide, Co Dublin.


Four of the charges are against the proprietor, Deirdre Kelly (55). These relate to breaches of record keeping and garda vetting regulations.


The remaining 20 charges are against the crèche itself.


Some 16 of these were described by solicitor David McCoy, for Tusla, as "welfare type prosecutions" of a "disrespectful, degrading and exploitative" nature.


The maximum fine the crèche can be hit with under the charges is €1,300. However, the court can also disqualify the operators from running a crèche for a period of time.


The court heard RTE passed 40 hours of footage to Tusla.


The hearing was adjourned until November 17.

Inspector of Prisons criticises child detention at St Patrick's


The Inspector of Prisons has strongly criticised the continued detention of children at St Patrick's Institution in Dublin


In his annual report, Judge Michael Reilly said the prevalence of drugs and contraband, and overcrowding in the Dóchas Centre Women's Prison are of grave concern.


The judge also said bullying of prisoners by other inmates is a major problem and occurs in some cases by prison staff.

There are many positive observations in the report, but Judge Reilly said he is disappointed that a problem identified and highlighted in one prison, still subsequently turns up in other ones.


Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the removal of 17-year-olds from St Patrick's is a priority for the Government.


She said 17-year-old offenders will be placed in the new facility in Oberstown in Dublin later this year and St Patrick's will close.


The minister said: "While much of the report is positive, issues of concern remain which include the continued accommodation of a small cohort of 17-year-old remand children in St. Patrick's, bullying by prisoner on prisoner and staff on staff, line management structures, prisoners on protection and overcrowding, in the Dóchas Centre in particular.


"Considerable progress has been made and the Inspector can be assured that every effort will continue to be made to fully address any deficiencies identified."

Just 164 prisoners have signed up for sex offender therapy costing €720,000


A therapeutic programme for convicted sex offenders has cost up to €720,000 to run since it was introduced in 2009, according to the Irish Prison Service.

But only 164 prisoners have availed of the voluntary programme during that time, representing just a fraction of criminals who have received jail sentences for sex offences.


The Building Better Lives (BBL) programme is devised by psychologists in the Irish Prison Service and is provided at Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin, where the majority of prisoners are male sex offenders. The programme involves group therapy and aims to rehabilitate participants and reduce the risk of them reoffending in the future.


Last year, 179 sex offenders were released from Irish prisons, but only 22 of these had engaged with the BBL programme.


In 2014, 142 sex offenders are due to be released from Arbour Hill, but only 24 of these chose to participate in the programme. At present, 35 sex offenders are enrolled in the programme.


It is divided into two modules lasting a total of 12 months, and an ongoing third module that functions as a continual support group for participants.


The Department of Justice has calculated that the costs associated with the BBL programme have amounted to between €673,340 and €721,440 since its introduction five years ago.


"The only specific cost associated with the programme is the psychology service resources invested in the programme," said a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.




"There are 18 psychologists working in the Irish Prison Service. Three of these are involved in the delivery of all aspects of the BBL, from assessment to group work and individual work.


"On average, these psychologists spend approximately 70-75pc of their time working in the BBL."


The Department has estimated that the provision of the BBL programme for sex offenders costs the Irish Prison Service between €134,668 and €144,288 a year.


This is addition to the cost of imprisonment in the case of each offender.


According to the Prison Service BBL uses "a strengths-based psychology approach".


The first module is called 'Exploring Better Lives' and aims to develop motivation and confidence about positive change.


Then prisoners move on to 'Practising Better Lives' where they focus on building "a more detailed understanding of past offending and developing positive offence-free self management plans for the future".


The final part is 'Maintaining Better Lives', which is about supporting "ongoing progress and development" for men who are serving longer sentences.

Aftercare services need dedicated funding


Long-awaited legislation meant to ensure young people leaving State care are supported into adulthood makes no provision for funding necessary services.


Charities are warning that the Aftercare Bill 2014 in its current form will only go halfway to helping vulnerable teenagers make a successful move out of care.


Jennifer Gargan, director of Epic (Empowering People in Care) said: “Aftercare services should be fully resourced and funding should be ring-fenced. That guarantee should have been put into the legislation but I think the Government are afraid to give that statutory guarantee for fear of what it will cost.”


There are 6,466 children and teenagers in care, in a mix of residential and foster care settings. Each year, 450 to 500 of them turn 18 and should move into aftercare that ensures they have a dedicated social worker, a place to live, the opportunity for third-level education, and other ongoing supports.


A new national aftercare policy was drawn up in 2011 but the last piece of legislation to address the issue was the 1991 Child Care Act which left it up to each health board to decide if aftercare was needed in individual cases and limited it to the age of 21 or 23 in exceptional cases.


Some 1,468 young people aged 18-23 currently receive some form of aftercare but a conference to mark the first National Care Leavers Day heard yesterday that there were gaps in services and that aftercare often depended on the “creativity” of social workers, homeless charities and other voluntary groups.


The conference heard aftercare services were given protection in law in Scotland after studies found 50% of people who left care had poor mental health, 35% had no qualifications and only 1% went to university, while 80% of prisoners convicted of violent crimes had been in care.


The Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group here meanwhile found a high number of deaths among young people who left care, mainly drug-related or suicides.


While the new legislation will place a statutory duty on the Child and Family Agency to prepare an individual aftercare plan for every young person leaving care, it does not back up that duty with a guarantee of funds.


Case study


Suzanne O’Brien is a 25-year-old university graduate who works with young people in care and knows more than most about the challenges they face.


She was placed in care aged nine, first in a residential setting, then a temporary foster placement, and then one that lasted from when she was 12 until she was 18.


“I met my family when I met them,” she says. “They are my mam and dad. They’re the people I run to now with my worries, my concerns, my happiness — or just to rob food and toilet rolls. I’m constantly going back.”


Others who aren’t so lucky or have proper aftercare “enter into an isolation of types where you don’t have that home that your peers would have to go to”.


She says for others like her, and those with less successful care experiences, formal aftercare is essential.

Success of sex abuse treatment highlighted


Only four out of 114 sex offenders who underwent treatment at a specialist abuse organisation have re-offended.


One in Four said the figures were “quite extraordinary” given the damage the individuals could have done otherwise.


Maeve Lewis, executive director, said the voluntary- body was one of only two community-based sex offender programmes in the country. She said there should be one in “every single county”, as long as they were run by appropriately skilled and qualified staff.


Speaking at the launch of the body’s 2013 annual report, Ms Lewis said restorative justice programmes — involving both offender and victim — offered a possible way forward.


She said the Government had indicated that the lack of treatment for offenders needed to be addressed and that it was beginning to consider restorative justice.


Launching the report, Kathleen Lynch, minister of state at the departments of health and justice, commended the report and the work of the body.


She said the Government was going to “take a serious look” at extending services.


Ms Lynch said every prison needed to have treatment programmes for sex offenders and that the state needed to be able to track and support offenders in the community. Ms Lewis said One in Four set up the Phoenix Programme in 2008 and treated 30 people last year.


“Since the programme started there has been 114 sex offenders and to the best of our knowledge only four re-offended,” she said. “This is quite extraordinary, when you consider the damage these men could have done on an ongoing basis.”


She said the organisation does not talk about curing offenders, but “managing” them, which was done in conjunction with the Child and Family Agency and gardaí.


Ms Lewis said One in Four was noticing a rise in the number of young offenders, with those aged 18 to 29 accounting for 23% of perpetrators. She said many of those view child sex abuse online before moving on to abuse children.


She said fewer than 15% of clients report to gardaí and that a restorative justice programme for six families is under way. She said it can work if there are good facilitators and if offenders are genuinely remorseful.


She noted there had been a shift in victims of sexual abuse, with those abused within families accounting for a greater percentage than those who were victims of Catholic priests.


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Increase in young sex offender numbers - One in Four


There has been a marked increase in young sex offenders being referred for treatment, a leading charity has warned.

One in Four, which counsels victims and attempts to treat perpetrators, said 18 to 25-year-olds make up a quarter of all abusers on its programmes.

Executive director Maeve Lewis revealed many of the young men experts are treating began offending as adolescents by downloading child pornography from the internet.

One in Four launches its annual report today which shows it provided treatment to 30 sex offenders in 2013, working closely with the Child and Family Agency and the gardai.

"During the past year the number of young men aged 18 to 25 years who have been referred to One in Four has increased and now comprises almost a quarter of all offenders on our treatment programme," Ms Lewis said.

"Many of these young men began offending as adolescents by downloading internet images of children being abused and then moved on to sexually harming children themselves.

"This poses serious questions for us as a digital age society in how we support young people to develop healthy notions of sex based on consensual sexual intimacy."

 One in Four said 2013 saw a change in the profile of survivors of child sexual abuse who sought psychotherapy treatment.

Some 115 people attended individual and group therapy and the charity said it assisted 43 families. Some 633 people were supported by the charity's advocacy officers.

Most survivors seen last year are victims of abusers in their family and neighbourhood, the charity said, rather than being victims of paedophile priests in the Catholic Church as had been the case in previous years.

Ms Lewis said this more accurately reflects the reality in Ireland.

"People who have been sexually abused in their family have very complex needs," she said.

"They need support in dealing with the impact of the abuse in their adult lives, but their families also need support in coming to terms with the truth of what happened and in understanding the intricate dynamics that allowed family members to be sexually abused. Our family support programme helps them to do this."

Elsewhere, One in Four said it made 51 child protection notifications to the Child and Family Agency and provided information to 405 professionals and survivors regarding the notification process.

Ms Lewis said: "Retrospective allegations are usually taken very seriously now, recognising that somebody who sexually abused a child 15 years ago may well be continuing to harm children in the present."

One in Four noted that fewer than 15% of abuse survivors it dealt with made a complaint to the gardai and an even smaller number of cases proceeds to trial - 35 of the charity's clients in 2013.

"Our advocacy officers regularly witness our clients being humiliated and their characters maligned during cross-examination in a criminal trial," Ms Lewis said.

"With all due regard to the right of an accused person to a fair trial, we have created a criminal justice system that so terrifies victims of sexual crime that most prefer to remain silent rather than seek justice for the terrible harm they have endured.

"This creates a culture where serious crimes are committed with impunity, surely an intolerable situation in a modern democracy."

Parents of girl who missed 81 days of school avoid jail


The parents of a teenage girl who did not turn up for classes on 81 days in the last school year avoided jail terms yesterday.

Judge John O’Neill heard at Dublin District Court that the girl’s school attendance record has improved greatly since the new term began.

However, he warned the parents, who were prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency, they would face the threat of prison if the situation deteriorates again.

The girl was not in class for 81 school days from September 2013 until July last. In the previous year, she was absent on 110 days.

Last July, Judge O’Neill told the parents their daughter deserved an education and he warned them he would jail them if the attendance record did not improve.

ISPCC backs opposition to Shatter's age-of-consent proposal


The ISPCC has insisted that the age of consent should stay at 17 and not be lowered.

The charity's comments come as the Justice Minister considers rowing back on the proposed changes put forward by her predecessor, Alan Shatter.

Frances Fitzgerald believes lowering the age of consent to 16 could increase the trafficking of teenage prostitutes.

ISPCC director of services Caroline O' Sullivan said that young people need to be emotionally mature enough before engaging in sexual activity.

"The age of consent, as it currently stands at 17, is a good age, because the reality is very often children and young people are getting involved in sexual activity too young, and by reducing it, that encourages that,"

"And the reality is that, young people, when they're involved in any form of sexual activity, they need to be emotionally as well as physically mature enough to be able to cope with that particular experience."


Garda probe after boy (9) is 'offered sweets to get into stranger's car'


Neighbours in Applewood, Swords, have been urged to remain vigilant after the nine-year-old claimed he was approached at the kerbside.

A garda spokesman told the Herald that an investigation has been launched into the incident, which happened at around 7.30pm last Sunday.

The boy was smart enough not to get into the car when the man drove alongside him.

He claimed he was first approached and offered sweets in the estate when the driver pulled up beside him, but he walked away in the direction of a group of adults.

However, he said he was approached a short time later and immediately ran to a friend's house in the estate to raise the alarm.

His friend's mother contacted gardai after she managed to catch the driver's registration plate, which was foreign.

Gardai said no arrests have been made, and that officers are working to establish if the incident was a genuine abduction attempt or if there is an innocent explanation.

They have decided against releasing a description of the car or its registration plate for the time being.

The last time there was a major child abduction scare in Swords was in April 2011, when four alleged attempts were reported in one week.

The cases all involved inappropriate approaches towards children being made by men.


In one incident, a man blocked a footpath with his car and tried to grab young girls in the Swords Manor area.

Three similar incidents were reported in the River Valley area around that time.

Officers investigating the incidents made no arrests, and reports of alleged abduction attempts eased off.

However, there was one further alleged attempt in May that year.

Again there were no arrests.

Ombudsman not publishing report into alleged abuse at Kilkenny school


The family and child agency has confirmed it has received a copy of a report by the Ombudsman for Children which examined claims of abuse in a Co Kilkenny school.


However, a spokesperson for Tusla said they had only received the report in recent days and it was too early to comment.


The Sunday Times reports that the former Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, issued her findings to those involved just before she left.


It claims that her report is criticial of the HSE, the Department of Education and the school's board of management for their failure to investigate the allegations of abuse by several children who have since left the school.

Daffodil Care Services are hiring

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  • Social Care Leaders
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for our new therapeutic, residential services in


  • South Tipperary,
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  • Swords, Co. Dublin.

Daffodil Care Services

Daffodil Care Services was established in 2007 to provide high quality short, medium, and long term residential based services to young people. With a strong emphasis on family, Daffodil Care is committed to working intensively with young people & their families through a clearly identified model of care, where reflective practice is at the core of all engagements. Since our est