Seanad debates

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


1:00 pm

Photo of Sharon KeoganSharon Keogan (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I call on the Minister for children in respect of Tusla's use of unregulated accommodation for vulnerable children and its handling of children entering Ireland from Ukraine and other war zones. It was reported by The Irish Times on 4 March that last year, over €70 million was paid to run unregulated accommodation for children in care in this country and €58 million of this amount went to ten private companies. These special emergency arrangements host more than 180 vulnerable minors at bed and breakfast accommodation or rented properties. One of the largest special emergency arrangement providers, Ideal Care Services, had stopped receiving child placements from Tusla after Garda vetting records had been altered and prospective employees' checks had been fabricated.Another concern surrounds children entering Ireland from war zones. The Irish Times, on 10 May 2022, reported on children brought to Mayo by a charity that flew 91 Ukrainian children to Dublin from Poland, and while the parents of some of the children made the journey, 59 were unaccompanied minors. Lily Luzan, founder of the Castlebar-based charity, Candle of Grace, which facilitated this journey, acknowledged that the charity had not notified Tusla of the arrival of the unaccompanied minors. It is of paramount importance that charities or organisations, however well-meaning, are held to the standards of Irish law. Children fleeing war are particularly vulnerable. Candle of Grace should be further investigated by Tusla, especially given the organiser of the trip expressly stated in the article published by The Irish Timesthat she would continue to do this into the future. In 2022, five children were identified as suspected victims of trafficking, most for sexual exploitation, according to the recent IHREC evaluation report published in 2023.

Ireland must step up when it comes to the welfare and protection of children. I would like the Minister to come to the House to answer these very important questions. To my mind, he is letting down the children of this nation who are in State care and, actually, he should resign.


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