‘Undue delay’ in child sex ring review is not acceptable, Government is told

Prof Geoffrey Shannon has been appointed to lead review. Picture: Damien Eagers
Prof Geoffrey Shannon has been appointed to lead review. Picture: Damien Eagers

The Government has been criticised over delays holding up a major review of the handling by authorities of a case involving what is feared to be largest paedophile ring in the country.

The review, which will focus on the response of Tusla and An Garda Síochána, was announced by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone on March 28 after the Dáil heard a whistleblower had expressed concerns over the urgency of the response of State agencies.

However, four months on from the announcement, the review has yet to begin, amid wrangling over what specifically should be investigated.

Draft terms of reference, with input from Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon, were forwarded several weeks ago to the Children and Youth Affairs Department and the Justice and Equality Department.

But these have yet to be signed off and a spokeswoman for Ms Zappone said it was not possible to say when the review would be completed.

“The review has not yet begun due to ongoing consultations with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Attorney General’s Office,” the spokeswoman said.

“Draft terms of reference have been prepared and are currently being reviewed by the parties involved so are not yet finalised. It is not possible to give a time frame for the delivery of the report at this stage.”

The delay was criticised as “unacceptable” by Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins, who described the case as “unprecedented in the history of the Irish State”.

“There is growing public concern as to why there is an undue delay in getting to the truth here. The Government need to stop sleepwalking through the process and act with a sense of urgency,” he said.

The review is to be conducted by Dr Shannon, child welfare consultant Suzanne Phelan and retired Garda chief superintendent Pádraig Kennedy.

A source with knowledge of the case said it involved the grooming of children on a scale never seen before in Ireland.

The source also said authorities may have to face up to uncomfortable truths about how the matter was handled.

Last month, in response to a parliamentary question from Mr Collins, Ms Zappone said the case involved the alleged abuse and neglect of 16 children in four families.

Eleven people, ranging in age from their 20s up to their 70s, were arrested by gardaí in early March. All were released without charge, but files were to be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Irish Independent

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