Monday, March 28, 2011

Child Welfare and Protection Agency (CWPA)

I very much welcome today’s announcement by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald TD that a body dedicated to the protection and safety of our children is being set up and that such responsibilities are to be removed from the HSE.

In a speech I gave in March 2010, published here, I said:

.... the HSE..... its inability to work in its current structure is plain for all to see..........the safety, welfare and protection of children must no longer be left in the hands of an organisation so obviously unfit for purpose. A new Department of Children, with a Minister who knows what he or she is doing, is a must for any new Government interested in seriously addressing the current broken system.

I am so pleased to see that the new Government has moved so speedily to establish the Department for Children and that work to create a new dedicated agency (Child Welfare and Protection Agency (CWPA)) whose exclusive function will be to deliver child welfare and protection services is underway.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Irish Catholic Bishops

STATEMENT - Andrew Madden

Irish Catholic Bishops – Towards Healing and Renewal

I wish to take the opportunity to respond to the document published today by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference to mark the first anniversary of the publication of the Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict to the Catholics of Ireland last year.

It is disappointing but by no means surprising that there is not a single reference to the role the Catholic Bishops played in causing the sexual abuse of so many children by covering up for the priests carrying out that abuse. Instead the role of Bishops is once again glossed over with such terms as ‘The inadequate response by some Church leaders’ and ‘so many in leadership failed to give priority to the love and care of children in their response to such heinous crimes’.

Last year I was one of those survivors who asked that any bishops who had played any part in the cover up of child sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests resign their positions. To me that was an important early step I had hoped for from the Catholic Church in the response, not only to the publication of the Murphy Report, but to the Bishops’ own statement in December 2009, that they recognised that the culture of cover up as revealed in the Murphy Report indicated a culture that was widespread in the Catholic Church.

Some time ago Pope Benedict used the term ‘the filth in the Catholic Church’ to describe priests who had sexually abused children - I don’t think it is too much to ask of a Church that looks to rebuild confidence and trust in itself and its current child protection measures that it at least put forward a leadership free of the filth that is those who covered it up.

END 19/03/2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Diarmuid Martin - Children's Rights - Government

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in a speech at the Mater Dei Institute for Education earlier this week that giving the state greater responsibility for children will not automatically ensure improved child protection and increased childrens’ rights. He went on to say that it is not the state’s job to bring up children: it is the job of parents and that the measures needed to address the challenges of improving child protection will require huge effort and go way beyond the creation, simply, of new structures.

I can’t help wondering who these comments were meant to be aimed at. Everyone I know who has a genuine interest in advancing the safety, welfare, protection and rights of children already knows that no one single measure will move that agenda of work along effectively and efficiently.

The wording that will be presented to the Irish people to vote on in a referendum on Children’s Rights is unlikely to have anything to do making it the State’s job to bring up children, far more likely to be about ensuring that where the parents of any child fail in their responsibility towards such child, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means, as shall be regulated by law, endeavour to supply or supplement the place of the parents, regardless of their marital status – quite different to bringing up all the children of the State.

Apart from a referendum on Children’s Rights, there is of course a huge amount of work to be done and it is refreshing, to say the least, to have a government in place that not only recognises this fact but has committed to doing much of that work and has started well. The appointment of a Minister for Children with full cabinet status is a very welcome start. The commitment to divest the HSE of all responsibility for the child protection system and put that work directly under the responsibility of the Minister and Department for Children is also very welcome. Placing Children First on a statutory basis and introducing a system of independent audit of compliance with Children First is another necessary step the Government has agreed to. Sarah’s Law is Fine Gael policy, another important child protection measure as is ensuring proper implementation of the StaySafe/SPHE programmes in all schools.

The Children’s Rights Referendum is not a panacea for advancing the safety, welfare, protection and rights of children, but most people who are genuinely interested in that agenda already know that.

END 16/03/2011