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Dublin: 19°C Sunday 25 July 2021

Fresh concerns over Direct Provision after incident involving children at Cork centre

The Department of Justice says it is aware of an incident in the centre.

The Department of Justice has said it is aware of the incident.
The Department of Justice has said it is aware of the incident.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

FRESH CONCERNS HAVE been raised about the Direct Provision system following an incident involving two young children at an accommodation centre in Cork.

The incident, alleged to have been of an apparent sexual nature, took place earlier this month with the mother of one of the children saying the family are “struggling to comprehend” what happened.

Gardaí say they are not investigating an alleged sexual offence at the centre but have confirmed that they were called to the centre on the day in question a fortnight ago. 

The mother says that the two children were in a playroom in the centre when the alleged incident took place and that they been playing together but that she lost sight of them for a period.

She says that she found the children with the help of a security guard. She and the security guard became concerned about what may have occurred and they watched CCTV footage of the incident before gardaí were contacted.

It is understood there is no formal inquiry due to the age of the children involved. Under section 52 of the Children Act, no child under the age of 12 years is capable of committing an offence.

The mother of the youngest child is particularly concerned as she and her daughter still live in close proximity to the other child involved. 

The Department of Justice’s Reception and Integration Agency is aware of the incident and says it is being examined by authorities.

“The department is aware of an incident in the accommodation centre. The guards are examining this incident and it would therefore be inappropriate at this stage to further comment,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement.

The Reception and Integration Agency has a comprehensive suite of policies designed to ensure the safety of residents including a Child Protection policy and a dedicated child protection unit. Any identified child protection issues are immediately referred to Tusla for immediate follow up. 

She says that the management of the centre contacted gardaí after the CCTV footage was viewed.

The mother says she was too upset to view the CCTV footage again after she viewed it the first time.

She says she was told not to bathe her daughter until she was medically examined, something she said was “against every instinct as a mother”.

She says that she was told the following day that the incident was not being pursued as a crime.

The mother says she took her child to a GP the day after the incident and was then referred to Cork University Hospital.

The woman has been in contact with a solicitor, who told TheJournal.ie that she will be advocating for the two families of the children to be separated as they remain in the same residence.

Addressing concerns about the Direct Provision system, Nick Henderson of the Irish Refugee Centre says they have consistently argued that the centres are particularly not appropriate for children. 

“While we are not aware of the details of this case, children’s rights experts have frequently raised concerns about the negative effect of Direct Provision on children,” he says. 

Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Professor Geoffrey Shannon, has repeatedly said that Direct Provision is in conflict with children’s right to an adequate standard of living and has been shown to be detrimental to children’s well-being and development. 

“The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, said in March 2019 that Direct Provision is not a suitable long-term arrangement for anyone, particularly for children who are spending large proportions of their childhoods living in an institution.”

“The best interests of the child is the primary consideration for the State under Irish and EU law and this must be reflected in accommodation arrangements to ensure that children are growing up in a safe and secure environment at all times.” 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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