Niall Kelleher, Fianna Fáil local election candidate in the Killarney Electoral Area has echoed concerns raised by his party colleagues about shortcomings in the Children First legislation. The comments from Niall Kelleher outline the concern of Fianna Fáil in relation to the legislation as currently drafted, which the party believe will not deliver the necessary protection for vulnerable children.
“I share the concerns that Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Robert Troy T.D. has already outlined to the Minister for Children France Fitzgerald T.D., which surround the current draft of the legislation.
“All of us with children want to ensure that they are safe and protected and that the necessary measures are in place by the state, to ensure that child protection is at the top of everyone’s agenda. While the publication of the legislation is most welcome, there is no point proceeding where there are such obvious shortcomings in the draft legislation. What we can see from the legislation published by the Minister for Children is that it does not contain the necessary sanctions for people who fail to report child protection concerns. For me, this is a glaring omission” said Niall Kelleher.
According to Niall Kelleher “This is a rowing back or a major watering down of the legislation we were all promised. This has been on the Minister’s desk for three years and she has repeatedly told us that this legislation was at the top of her list of priorities. While I welcome the Bill, I am anxious that my colleague and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Children Robert Troy T.D. will engage in constructive debate with the Minister in the Dáil at the appropriate Oireachtas Committee. I am confident that Fianna Fáil will be bringing forward amendments to try to improve and strengthen the legislation and it is my hope that the Minister will look at them positively.“
“Everybody has been waiting for this legislation, it has been much sought for and there has been extensive debate, including during the recent Referendum on the Rights of Children. We expected this law to be a line in the sand, something that would end a culture of turning a blind eye to child abuse and other child protection issues. It is welcome that professionals working with children will be legally obliged to report concerns under this legislation but there will be no penalties if they don’t. In my view, this is weak legislation. When the initial draft of the legislation was discussed two years ago, there were very strict sanctions for failure to comply with the legislation. Sanction included up to five years in prison, but this has all been watered down by the Government. It is a u-turn and it unacceptable” concluded Niall Kelleher.