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Garda investigation into alleged child abuse following RTÉ documentary

Frances Fitzgerald says both the Gardaí and the HSE are investigating the footage broadcast on Prime Time last night.

A GARDA INVESTIGATION has begun into the RTÉ documentary into alleged abusive conditions at childcare facilities.

Childrens minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil this afternoon that both the Gardaí and the Health Service Executive were investigating the footage broadcast on the Prime Time programme ‘A Breach of Trust’.

The programme featured footage filmed by an undercover reporter while working at childcare facilities in Dublin and Wicklow.

Fitzgerald said the footage – which included clips of children being tied down and restrained, thrown onto mattresses, being shouted at, and in one case left alone in a room alone as punishment for an alleged transgression – was “bordering on abuse”.

She described the footage as “harrowing, distressing, shocking, and… absolutely unacceptable”, and said it was evident that the inspection procedures in place were evidently not fulfilling the standards needed.

The minister stressed, however, that the conditions depicted in last night’s programme were not the case in every childcare facility, and that there were “many examples of high-quality practice in this country”.

“We do not want to panic every parent in the country about the standards of these practices, but we do need to be vigilant,” she said.

Fitzgerald said new inspectors were being recruited to address the fact that five counties currently had no HSE-appointed childcare inspectors at all, and affirmed HSE plans to begin publishing inspection reports of childcare facilities online in a similar manner to HIQA inspections of nursing homes.

Matter raised by 11 TDs in Topical Issues

Fitzgerald was discussing the matter during a Topical Issues debate after 11 separate TDs, from all parties and none, asked for Dáil time to be allotted to discuss it.

Peter Mathews demanded “root and branch” reform to ensure a national approach to enforcing childcare standards, while Simon Harris said in prosperous times, Ireland had invested in bricks and mortar “but not in standards in quality”.

Derek Keating said the only word to describe the footage was “abuse”, while Robert Troy argued that current rules which do not require all childcare staff to be formally trained meant you “can’t have a quality service without a quality workforce”.

Mary Lou McDonald said no state funding should be given to facilities that were not inspected and regulated, while Ciara Conway argue that funding must be linked to the quality of care provided, as Alan Farrell said the footage illustrated a “fundamental breach of trust, of the most vulnerable people in our society, by those turning a profit”.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked for a “fundamental” review of policies in the care-for-profit sector, while Róísín Shortall affirmed that an inspection service based in every county should put its inspection reports online as a matter of routine.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin remarked that the conditions seen on the programme would not have been in place in a primary school, calling for the two systems to be subject to similar regulation, while John Lyons said people would be “gobsmacked” if similar conditions were revealed in a primary or secondary school.

If you were affected by the issues raised in the programme, you may wish to contact Barnardos at (01) 454 9699 or the ISPCC at (01) 6767 960.

Read: Anger as RTE Prime Time shows mistreatment of creche children

More: Links Childcare plans CCTV streaming as it tries to ‘repair loss of trust’

Read: Government shocked by creche claims: ‘It’s every parents worst nightmare’

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Gavan Reilly

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