Seanad debates

Thursday, 11 April 2024

EU Regulations (Police Co-operation on Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings): Motion


9:30 am

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I warmly congratulate my neighbour, the Minister, Deputy McEntee, on her reappointment as Minister for Justice. She is my neighbour from across the fields as they say. It is good to see her in that role in which she has been making huge waves.

I formally support the adoption of the regulation enhancing police co-operation in relation to prevention, detection and investigation of human trafficking. I had the privilege and honour of meeting the health and social care education and human trafficking group recently. I hosted a briefing in the audiovisual room in Leinster House yesterday as a consequence of that meeting. Thankfully, it was well attended by Members from all the parties, which I am thrilled about because it means there is awareness across the parties.

The two principals in the group I met are Dr. Annette Kennedy, president emeritus of the International Council of Nurses, and Dr. Anne-Marie Ryan, who has lectured in Trinity College Dublin, has a PhD in education and was a nurse educator. Both women began life as nurses in the Richmond Hospital and then gained eminence in their profession at organisational and professional level. Both are doctors now and obviously have huge competencies, academically, intellectually and in terms of practical experience. Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Ryan addressed the cross-party gathering yesterday. They made a very important point that I am very concerned about, which will come up again when we discuss the legislation on human trafficking. They want officials in the Department of Health, professionals, nurses, doctors, GPs, care workers and social workers, of whom I am proud to say my son is one, to have a competence to detect a trafficked person and report the matter. The group wants this to be part of the education of health professionals and argues that there would be a module on it. This would not necessarily involve huge costs because it would be part of a college course. They are asking for a module to be included on this critical issue.

The health and social care education and human trafficking group informed me that in the first year of being trafficked, 88% of trafficked persons will approach a medical practitioner or nurse with an issue, whether it is a pregnancy, an injury, a disease or one of a myriad other things. Only 1% of that 88% are detected as trafficked. I know the Minister has a huge interest in this issue and is very sensitive to it. That is an horrific statistic by any objective criteria, but especially given that 50 million people are trafficked globally. A trafficking in persons, TIP, report done in the United States ranked Ireland as a tier two country. We should be ashamed of that fact and it is one the Minister wants to change. It needs to be changed and I appeal to her to make that a priority.

Trafficked people are working in labour in full sight. The first and most famous person trafficked to Ireland was St. Patrick. Since the trafficking of St. Patrick, about which we all express horror around St. Patrick's Day, the problem has got worse. Millions of people are being trafficked globally. When we have our cars filled with petrol or washed and when we stay in hotels, we see people who are trafficked. They may be working on intensive farms. We need to be vigilant and conscious of the problem. The adoption of this regulation will be a step in the right direction but I appeal to the Minister to support the idea of having this subject made part of the education of professionals so they can spot it.

Our work today is good but it is only a fraction of what we need to do on this. People will evaluate us in years to come on many things that are bleak and dark now. One of the things history will judge is how we responded to this horror in front of our eyes and whether we looked the other way, metaphorically or literally.


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