Suspension of inquiry into child sex abuse case sparks concern

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Niall Collins
Limerick Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins

A SPECIAL inquiry into the handling of one of the biggest paedophile investigations in the history of the State, will now not go ahead.

Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone has told Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins that she has been advised to postpone the inquiry which was to have been carried out by Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon.

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Deputy Collins said that suspending the review “will be a cause for concern”.

Minister Zappone commissioned the review on March 28, 2018 after 11 people were arrested during a Garda inquiry into the alleged sexual abuse and exploitation of 16 children in the Mid West.

The arrests were made after up to 20 alleged victims made complaints over an eight-month period.

The review was to look at the State’s handling of the case and the agencies involved after details of the alleged abuse first emerged more than 12 months ago.

Six women and five men, ranging in age from 20 to 70, were arrested and questioned but later released without charge.

The children at the centre of the alleged abuse and exploitation are subject of court imposed care orders.

Deputy Collins told the Limerick Post that “although it’s understandable in view of the fact that criminal proceedings are in progress, the suspension of Dr Shannon’s investigation into the handling of this case by Tusla will be a cause of public concern.”

While there is no evidence of any mishandling of the case by either Tusla or the Gardaí, the inquiry was intended to be a short, focused independent “serious incident” review of the actions taken in respect of the children involved and those suspected of the crimes.

Dr Shannon had been teamed with child welfare consultant Suzanne Phelan and Garda chief superintendent Padraig Kennedy to carry out the review after Minister Zappone and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan agreed its terms of reference.

Deputy Collins said that “people have a right to know if the State, through its child protection services, failed these vulnerable children over many years.

“The only way to ensure we get the truth is to resume the inquiry when the criminal proceedings have concluded,” Deputy Collins said.

Minister Zappone said that “matters may be revisited at a later date to determine if further action is warranted and, if so, the form that such action might take.”