Ireland must be more proactive in protecting and providing for our children – MEP Maria Walsh 

Investing in our children is a strategic investment for the future according to MEP Walsh, and we must provide access to key services, and ensure equal opportunities

Ireland must be more proactive when it comes to protecting our children and young people, according to MEP Maria Walsh. Speaking this morning – on International Children’s Day – the Fine Gael MEP said the children of Ireland must be protected and provided for at all costs, and that we must provide access to key services for children and their families, ensuring equal opportunities from a young age. She called on the government to transpose any and all new legislation relating to children, ensuring we do not have a repeat of what has happened with the EU Work-Life Balance Directive. 

In recent days, the European Commission confirmed it will be referring Ireland, Belgium and Spain to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to notify national measures fully transposing an EU directive on work-life balance rights for parents and carers. The legislation aims to enable working parents to better reconcile professional and private lives. “This is a vital piece of legislation for children and their families and we must ensure that we do not drag our heels on any directives that will improve the lives of children in Ireland. Our young people must remain our priority,” said MEP Walsh. 

In a wider context, the Fine Gael representative said there are several areas to be addressed when it comes to protecting children, not least in the trafficking of minors. “Ireland has a poor reputation on the global stage in this area, and sits at Tier 2 on the UN Watchlist for Human Trafficking. In Ireland, we are simply not doing enough to tackle the growing problem and the reality is that children are considered to be among the most vulnerable to be targeted by organised criminal groups involved in trafficking of human beings. Sadly, children are often exploited and are recruited into joining organised criminal groups to later commit criminal activities. We must ensure that this recruitment of children to commit or participate in criminal activities is seen as exploitation,” she reasoned. 

Continuing, MEP Walsh spoke of the importance of people being able to spot the signs. “We must provide the necessary resources for specific training for people who come into contact with victims of human trafficking. At the moment, the focus is on being able to spot the signs of abuse, and of course this is hugely important, but we must also provide training so that the right people know what to watch out for and how to spot the signs of trafficking and exploitation, particularly among children,” she said.

The European Parliament will sit in Strasbourg this week and MEPs will debate and vote on a number of resolutions relating to the protection of children. “It is fitting that this is the week we will examine what countries are doing to keep children their priority and from our point of view in Ireland, we must ensure we lead the way. There will be a joint debate this evening in Strasbourg where we will discuss two important resolutions which we will vote on in Parliament tomorrow. The first is about strengthening the Child Guarantee, two years on from its adoption, while the second focuses on reducing inequalities and promoting social inclusion in times of crisis for children and their families,” she explained.