Statement by Minister Shatter on Prime Time Investigates programme on clerical sex abuse in Africa

24 May, 2011.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., said he had watched last night's Prime Time Investigates programme on clerical sexual abuse in Africa with a sense of revulsion at the unspeakable catalogue of abuse against children it revealed.

Minister Shatter said:

'I share the widespread public concern and disgust at the revelations which the programme contained.  While the behaviour took place abroad, we have a solemn duty to do all that is within our power to ensure that perpetrators of this predatory abuse of children are brought to justice wherever it takes place.  There can be no hiding place for those who do these despicable acts to children.

Our law does provide, in the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act, 1996, that in certain circumstances persons can be tried here for sexual offences against a child which are committed abroad.

I have been in touch with the Garda Commissioner about this matter who, of course, shares my concern at the revelations in the programme.

The Superintendent in charge of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit is being appointed to examine the programme.  In particular, he will examine whether any criminal behaviour was disclosed which can be pursued in this jurisdiction.

In addition, the Gardaí are liaising with the Health Service Executive about any child protection issues that arise in this jurisdiction from the presence here of a number of persons identified in the programme.

And I have been assured that the Gardaí will, of course, cooperate with their counterparts in other jurisdictions in any investigations they carry out.

Investigations and bringing prosecutions in relation to offences carried out abroad are, of their nature, very difficult and I do not want to raise any unrealistic expectations about what can be achieved.  But I believe that people are entitled to be reassured that we are doing everything open to us to counteract this evil wherever it takes place and that the examination which the Gardaí will be undertaking should offer that reassurance.'