Breen delivers his last Speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

October 7th, 2010 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare. T.D. Pat Breen delivered his last speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg yesterday afternoon (Tuesday).

Deputy Breen contributed to the Debate on the Report Child Abuse in Institutions which was presented to the Assembly by the Rapporteur, Ms Marlene Rupprecht, Member of the German Parliament and Socialist Group.

In his contribution, Deputy Breen highlighted the human cost of abuse which children have suffered in Irish Institutions, “scars which they carry with them for the rest of their lives.” Deputy Breen warned that now that “the true extent of the abuse and neglect that inflicted upon persons in the care of church and state institutions has been revealed, that member states must respond and put the necessary mechanism in place to ensure that child care and protection services are fully accountable and transparent.

He told the Parliamentary Assembly that lessons must be learned from the Irish Experience, “One of the main lessons other countries should learn from this process in Ireland” he said was that when “reports are published into child abuse, there is an increase in the demand for such a scheme and for counselling and back-up services.”

He went to urge Member States to commit more resources to addressing the major challenge of protecting our systems to protect children, adding that “we need radically to overhaul the care provided by health care systems. He warned that “additional social workers, improved supervision and improved facilities” were all needed.

He highlighted his own Party’s Fine Gael’s website “Let in the Light Campaign”, which was set up he said “because we want to ensure that children at risk are given the protection to which they are entitled”. Commending Mrs Rupprecht, Rapporteur, for presenting the Report, Deputy Breen said that “thousands of Children across Europe will continue to suffer abuse if we do not “let in the light” to their lives.

ENDS

Speech Delivered by Deputy Pat Breen T.D., Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. at the Parliamentary Assembly Session of the European Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, 5th October 2010.

Thank you very much indeed, Mr President. Like you, I come from Ireland where the problem of child abuse has done a lot of damage to the Catholic Church. It is now important that the true extent of the abuse and neglect that was inflicted upon persons in the care of church and state institutions is revealed, that member states respond, and that we put the necessary mechanisms in place to ensure that child care and protection services are fully accountable and transparent. For too long, church and state authorities have been in denial and a culture of secrecy and cover-up prevailed. In Ireland, the shocking extent of the abuse that was endemic in our state-run institutions came to light only because of the bravery of the victims who displayed great courage in speaking out, and without whom the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse would never have been able to report because it was dependent on the victims giving evidence, which they did in huge numbers.

Children who are abused carry those scars with them throughout their lives. I have met many of them. I have listened to their harrowing stories and I can tell you that they are suffering a life sentence. Following a public apology by the Irish state in 1999, a state redress scheme was set up in 2002, designed to pay compensation to the victims. One of the main lessons that other countries should learn from this process in Ireland is that when reports are published into child abuse, there is an increase in the demand for such a scheme. For example, there has been a lot of debate in recent weeks on whether or not former residents of a Protestant-run mother-and-baby home in Dublin will be included in the redress scheme.

Another lesson that should be borne in mind is that when reports are published, there is an increase in demand for counselling and back-up services. That is why it is so important to ensure that provision is made for these services in advance of the publication of reports. For far too long, change and reforms that have been promised to protect our vulnerable children have been delayed or ultimately not delivered. It is essential that member states commit more resources to addressing the major challenge of protecting our children. Lessons must be learned, and we need radically to overhaul the care provided by our health care systems. In Ireland, 22 unaccompanied minors went missing from state care in 2008, and this is not just an Irish problem. Additional social workers, improved supervision and improved facilities are also needed. Established and clear child protection guidelines are also needed, and greater security vetting of all those working with children, whether that work is voluntary or elsewhere in our institutions.

My political party, Fine Gael, has launched its own website, “Let in the Light Campaign”, because we want to ensure that children at risk are given the protection to which they are entitled. I commend Mrs Rupprecht, the rapporteur, for presenting the report and urge member states to endorse its findings. Thousands of children across Europe will continue to suffer abuse if we do not “let in the light” to their lives.

For your information Summary of the Report “Child Abuse in institutions – ensure full protection of the victims.

Strong laws to protect kids are the first step: child abuse should be prosecuted even when victims do not bring charges, and abusers should not be able to escape simply because too much time has passed. Next, there should be careful licensing and ongoing outside scrutiny of such institutions, and staff working with children should be vetted by the police. Finally, institutions themselves should put in place strong internal procedures to minimise the risk of abuse, train staff in spotting and dealing with it, and encourage children to know and uphold their rights. National inquiries into past offences can play a role, to bring justice to victims and ensure they receive some form of compensation, as well as therapeutic help. More broadly, all stakeholders need to be involved in developing comprehensive strategies to keep children safe. Governments and parliaments, in particular, should give their full support to the Council of Europe campaign to stop sexual violence against children, to be launched in Rome in November.