The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, today said: "We wish to express our shock and abhorrence at the circumstances surrounding the barbaric case of child physical and sexual abuse and rape dealt with at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Castlebar, Co Mayo yesterday. "
The Ministers said: "Our thoughts are with the victims who showed great courage in coming forward to the authorities and were thereby instrumental in bringing about the successful prosecution of the perpetrator. While not wishing to comment on the specific circumstances surrounding the case, the acts involved were particularly heinous and depraved by any measure of human behaviour. The primary concern now is to ensure that the victims have access to the range of professional supports required and that they are helped in every possible way."
The Ministers went on to congratulate the members of the Garda investigative team whose tenacity and hard work in investigating the case led to the conviction of the man involved. In so doing they have combined professionalism with sensitivity and compassion for the victims.
Minister Fitzgerald commented: "Cases such as these serve to remind us all that the abuse of a child is despicable and those who carry out such acts must be subject to the full rigour of the law. The decision to report cases of child sex abuse, whether within or outside the family, presents particular difficulties for those involved and we must strive to ensure that they come forward."
The failure to report cases of child sexual abuse to the Gardaí was the one of the most serious failures identified in the Cloyne report such failures, however, extend to the wider community and are not restricted to clerical abuses. Minister Shatter said: "I am determined to address the failure to report child abuse which results in children being vulnerable to abuse by repetitive offenders. To address this I obtained Government approval to draft the Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill 2011 on 3 June last, and I expect to publish the Bill in the next month or so." The purpose of the Bill is to create an offence of failing to disclose to the Gardaí, without reasonable excuse, information where a serious criminal offence against a child or intellectually disabled person has been committed and the person knows or believes that the information they hold may be of material assistance in the arrest, prosecution or conviction of the offender.
Minister Fitzgerald said: "The Government is committed to strengthening the arrangements for the reporting of concerns of abuse by putting the Children First Guidance for the protection and welfare of children on a statutory basis. The necessary legislation is being worked on by my Department as a priority. This legislation will not only bring forward statutory requirements on organisations and individuals to report, but also make clear to all of civil society what to do when they have concerns about a child."
In conclusion, the Minsters stated that "the cases in question reinforce the importance, across society, of reporting to the statutory authorities any child abuse concerns. We would like to re-new their call today for anyone with child abuse concerns or information to come forward and to assist the HSE and An Garda Siochana in their respective roles in carrying out their work to protect children".