back to latest news

Release of Ingrid Betancourt & Child Sex Offences

03 July 2008

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I join other Members of the House in welcoming the release of Ingrid Betancourt and the other hostages. I pay tribute to the group in Ireland that campaigned for her release for many years and which was represented on “Morning Ireland” this morning. It has done very well and it is with great pride we can say we passed a unanimous motion in this House calling for her release.

I ask the Leader for a debate on child sex offences and offences of sexual abuse against children. I support the call made by Senator Fitzgerald yesterday for this debate. It is a matter of real concern to us all that the Director of Public Prosecutions recently said that he finds it very difficult to prosecute offences of sexual abuse against children. It is a matter of deep concern to us all. The problem is clearly that in the aftermath of the CC case and the Supreme Court's striking down of previous offences of strict liability, we are left with legislation that clearly is not effective. Even the language in the Act, which refers to offences of sexual defilement of children, is problematic. Senator Alex White said this could be dealt with legislation. It would be nice to see that happen. I would favour and have long called for codifying legislation of the type recommended by the DPP similar to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in the UK which re-enacts absolute liability where an offence of sexual abuse against a child under 13 occurs. The difficulty in Ireland is that I am not convinced that such legislation is possible under the current constitutional framework.

Unfortunately, an amendment may be required to enact effective codifying legislation to cover this. I ask the Leader for a debate in this House.

I welcome the Leader's announcement that we will have a debate on the economy next week. As the rain comes down and interest rates go up, this is a clear time of gloom for us all on the economy. What is important in any debate, as was said yesterday, is that it be fact-based and that no fictions are spoken of in respect of the economy. It is equally important that we do not engage in hypocrisy. Yesterday, we saw a great deal of hypocrisy from those on the Government side who criticised its handling of the economy and yet presumably will vote with the Government side on any vote on the economy.