Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


2:25 pm

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)

I thank Deputy Bacik and join her in her comments on the war crimes that were carried out by targeting sick children in Ukraine yesterday. Imagine what that is like. The war in Ukraine has been going on for quite a long time but we can never allow ourselves to be in any way immune or accept what is happening, nor should we with the crimes against children happening in the Middle East. A state that commits war crimes targeting sick children and using hypersonic missiles is one that has no interest in peace. This attack and Russia's further efforts to escalate the conflict demonstrate that Russia is only intent on escalation. It has to be held to account for this.

I thank Deputy Bacik for bringing up the important issue relating to the documentary that was on at the weekend regarding the FAI and abuse. I join her in commending the former players and others who came forward, spoke up and spoke out. She is right that it seems, every week in this House, that we are discussing another example of abuse, attacks and assaults against women or girls, some in the here and now, some in the recent past, and some further back in the past. All that time, we are consistently having that conversation. That is a stark reminder that we are nowhere near where we wish to be as a country and that our work has to continue cross-party, as I know it does, on how we bring about complete cultural change and zero tolerance to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

I am aware of the specific issue the Deputy raised, which has been reported over the past few days. That investigation into alleged abuse in Irish football in the 1990s is under way. I know a Garda investigation is also under way and that the FAI, as the national governing body, is engaging fully with that investigation, as it must and should. As the matter is currently subject to a Garda investigation, I do not want to comment too much on the detail of it for fear of in any way cutting across that work. Of course, it is vital that allegations of this nature are taken seriously and that the FAI takes an athlete-centred approach to its handling of this matter.

It is important to make the point that in recent years, we have seen a number of steps taken by both Sport Ireland and national governing bodies to create a safe environment. We have seen safeguarding policies and procedures put in place. All national governing bodies now have Sport Ireland safeguarding guidance for children and young people in sport. There is a core document in this regard.

Sport Ireland has done an extensive suite of work around guidelines and codes of practice for the protection of children and young people in sport. Specifically on the issue raised by the Deputy, I understand Sport Ireland recently wrote to all 65 national governing bodies to remind them of their responsibilities, the policies and procedures regarding player welfare and that they must be up to date, fit for purpose and implemented.


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