Independent Senators call for government action on child abuse images

Independent Senators call for government action on child abuse images
Press Release, 29th February 2012

The Independent Group of Senators (Taoiseach’s Nominees) will table a Private Members’ Motion in the Seanad this evening, calling for the Government to take action to combat the easy availability of images of sexual abuse to internet users in Ireland.

The motion will call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to take action in line with the Directive adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in December 2011 ‘on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography’.

The State already takes steps to secure the removal of child abuse material held on servers within its jurisdiction. Legislation in line with the Directive would allow Ireland to block access to websites containing this illegal material where it is hosted outside our jurisdiction and where its removal is difficult or likely to take an unreasonable length of time.

The Independent Group motion will remind the House that images of child abuse are not just images: every child abuse image is a crime scene. Where images are disseminated, there is ongoing harm to victims, while the number of offenders continues to grow. One survivor of this kind of abuse said that “*T+hose who view the images of my abuse are no different from those who made them in the first place. It feels like they are in the room, encouraging my abuse.”

Senator van Turnhout, emphasising the importance of the motion said, “a child abuse image is a crime scene, a digital record of sexual abuse being perpetrated against a child. Statistics show that a staggering 69% of the victims depicted in child abuse images are between 0 and 10 years of age. The sheer depravity and calculation of the offenders is such that they are increasingly targeting children at pre-speaking age because they can’t articulate the abuse they are experiencing.”

Since the advent of widely available broadband, access to images of child abuse has become far simpler and more widespread. In 1995, Interpol was aware of 4,000 child abuse images in total. Recent data puts the number of known images at over 1,000,000.

While other countries – including the UK, Australia, and Sweden – already have systems in place for blocking access to sites containing child abuse material, there has been some resistance to the idea in Ireland. The Independent Group motion aims to encourage the Minister to legislate on this critical issue.
The motion will call on the Government to:

1. Bring forward legislation to implement the EU Directive, to combat sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children and child abuse material in cyber space.

2. Ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, signed by Ireland in 2000.

3. Ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, signed by Ireland in 2007.

ENDS

Notes for editors: The Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees) are Senators Jillian van Turnhout, Martin McAleese, Fiach MacConghail, Mary Ann O’Brien, Marie Louise O’Donnell, and Katherine Zappone.

The motion can be viewed at: http://scr.bi/CAMIrl

Independent Senators call for government action on child abuse images

The Independent Group of Senators (Taoiseach’s Nominees) will table a Private Members’ Motion in the Seanad this evening, calling for the Government to take action to combat the easy availability of images of sexual abuse to internet users in Ireland.

The motion will call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to take action in line with the Directive adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in December 2011 ‘on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography’.

The State already takes steps to secure the removal of child abuse material held on servers within its jurisdiction. Legislation in line with the Directive would allow Ireland to block access to websites containing this illegal material where it is hosted outside our jurisdiction and where its removal is difficult or likely to take an unreasonable length of time.

The Independent Group motion will remind the House that images of child abuse are not just images: every child abuse image is a crime scene. Where images are disseminated, there is ongoing harm to victims, while the number of offenders continues to grow. One survivor of this kind of abuse said that “[T]hose who view the images of my abuse are no different from those who made them in the first place. It feels like they are in the room, encouraging my abuse.”

Senator van Turnhout, emphasising the importance of the motion said, “a child abuse image is a crime scene, a digital record of sexual abuse being perpetrated against a child. Statistics show that a staggering 69% of the victims depicted in child abuse images are between 0 and 10 years of age. The sheer depravity and calculation of the offenders is such that they are increasingly targeting children at pre-speaking age because they can’t articulate the abuse they are experiencing.”

Since the advent of widely available broadband, access to images of child abuse has become far simpler and more widespread. In 1995, Interpol was aware of 4,000 child abuse images in total. Recent data puts the number of known images at over 1,000,000.

While other countries – including the UK, Australia, and Sweden – already have systems in place for blocking access to sites containing child abuse material, there has been some resistance to the idea in Ireland. The Independent Group motion aims to encourage the Minister to legislate on this critical issue.

The motion will call on the Government to:

1.   Bring forward legislation to implement the EU Directive, to combat sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children and child abuse material in cyber space.

2.   Ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, signed by Ireland in 2000.

3.   Ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, signed by Ireland in 2007.

 

Order of Business, 15 February 2012

My question to the Leader today relates to the growing levels of child poverty here. Ireland is near the top of the table for OECD countries as regards percentage of children living in poverty. Figures for 2011 show that 19% of children live in poverty and 9% of children experience consistent poverty. The OECD has clearly identified that child poverty rates are significantly higher for jobless families than for families with at least one parent in employment but also lone parent households compared to two-parent households. Many more children are at risk from poverty due to the cumulative effect of successive budgets. This means that children in Ireland are living on poor diets, they are missing developmental milestones, they are suffering more ill health, they are struggling at school and they experience increased isolation because they are unable to participate in ordinary childhood activities. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Social Protection to the House to debate how best to tackle growing child poverty and how to reverse this unacceptable trend.

In this regard I have organised a briefing today at 5.30 p.m. in the audiovisual room and I have brought together four organisations, SPARK, Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids, One Family, OPEN and Treoir. They will give a joint briefing to Deputies and Senators on the cumulative effects of the budgets. Child poverty is something of concern to Members on all sides and it is vital that we work together to safeguard the future of our children.

Order of Business, 7 February 2012

7th February 2012

I would like to begin by wishing the very best to my colleague, Senator Eamonn Coghlan, with his endeavours in his new career with Fine Gael. I look forward to continuing to work with him and all my colleagues in this House.

It is a great shame that the Internet service providers of Ireland have chosen today – Safer Internet Day – to criticise the decision of their UK counterparts to require their customers to opt in before accessing adult material. The Internet service providers of Ireland are more than willing to block access to sites that infringe copyright, but they consider it to be nothing less than censorship to try to prevent a child from accessing potentially harmful material. They took a similar view when they were asked to block child abuse material. This is already being done in many European countries, including Norway, Sweden and Italy. The US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children has estimated that 20% of all pornography on the Internet depicts the abuse and exploitation of children. However, Irish Internet providers are more concerned with preventing people from downloading songs and other things from the entertainment industry than with blocking terrible images of children being abused. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to the House to outline what Ireland is doing to join its EU counterparts in blocking child abuse material on the Internet.

Order of Business, 7 February 2012

I would like to begin by wishing the very best to my colleague, Senator Eamonn Coghlan, with his endeavours in his new career with Fine Gael. I look forward to continuing to work with him and all my colleagues in this House.

It is a great shame that the Internet service providers of Ireland have chosen today – Safer Internet Day – to criticise the decision of their UK counterparts to require their customers to opt in before accessing adult material. The Internet service providers of Ireland are more than willing to block access to sites that infringe copyright, but they consider it to be nothing less than censorship to try to prevent a child from accessing potentially harmful material. They took a similar view when they were asked to block child abuse material. This is already being done in many European countries, including Norway, Sweden and Italy. The US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children has estimated that 20% of all pornography on the Internet depicts the abuse and exploitation of children. However, Irish Internet providers are more concerned with preventing people from downloading songs and other things from the entertainment industry than with blocking terrible images of children being abused. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to the House to outline what Ireland is doing to join its EU counterparts in blocking child abuse material on the Internet.

Priorities in Foreign Affairs – Statements

2nd February 2012

We could all say a great deal but I will limit myself to one specific point. I welcome the Tánaiste’s commitment to Internet freedom through his work as chair of the OSCE. It is on this note that I draw his attention to the recent arrest of a 31 year old Indonesian civil servant, whose name I will supply to the Tánaiste separately, for having questioned the existence of God on his Facebook profile page. He has been charged under Indonesian law prohibiting blasphemy and faces five years imprisonment if found guilty. The reason I raise this case with the Tánaiste is that Indonesia is one of a number of Islamic states that has cited Irish blasphemy legislation in support and defence of its own. Irish blasphemy law was cited as an authority in support of Indonesia’s constitutional court decision to uphold its law prohibiting blasphemy in 2010. While I fully support the repeal of this law, I do not believe the intention of the blasphemy legislation introduced by Mr. Dermot Ahern in 2009 was to infringe upon the rights to freedom of expression, religion, belief and conscience in Ireland. Nor do I think it is a desirable consequence that our law is being used to support such infringements, including against Christian religions in Islamic countries anywhere else in the world. I consider this as much a foreign affairs concern as a domestic concern. I welcome that this law is up for review in the programme for Government.

Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 – Second Stage

2nd February 2012

Yes. In the spirit of equality and the subject matter in question, Senator Fiach Mac Conghail and I have agreed to share our time equally.

I very much welcome former Senator, Dr. Mary Henry, to the House. I acknowledge the work of many people to get us to where we are in our consideration of this Bill today. Senator Mac Conghail’s statement will focus on the transparency and disclosure aspects of the Bill. I wholeheartedly share his views on this. My statement will focus on the gender quota dimension of the Bill. I commend the initiation of this Bill by the Minister, Deputy Hogan. I thank him for initiating it in this House and giving us the opportunity to start the discussions. It is a strong Bill, which the Minister has outlined.

I am not necessarily a cheerleader for gender quotas. If anybody looks to my history he or she will note that when I was president of the National Youth Council of Ireland I lobbied hard for the removal of the gender quotas from the council’s constitution on the basis that it was no longer required. However, I believe in quotas when necessary and I believe the introduction of gender quotas for candidate selection is extremely necessary here.

Women account for half of the Irish population and yet we are vastly under-represented in the policy and decision making process that shapes our future. This is not because women are disinterested. I know from personal experience with the girl guides and civil society organisations the passion and commitment of many women and the vital role they play in shaping Ireland for the better. One need only go to any town or community in Ireland to see this role very clearly demonstrated.

The historic and persistent under-representation of women in Irish politics is problematic in the interests of democracy and from a human rights perspective. We recently celebrated the passage of 90 years since women in Ireland first won the right to vote and since the election of Countess Markievicz as the first female TD and MP elected. The intervening years have not boded well for gender parity representation in Irish politics. Ireland has one of the worst records of women’s representations in national parliaments worldwide. We are currently ranked 22nd out of 27 EU member states and 79th in international rankings. Since the foundation f the State in 1918 our Dáil has never had less than 85% male representation. As leader of an independent group of Senators I am part of a group with 57% female membership. That has not done us any harm but it is an anomaly. Out of a total of 1,620 Seanad seats filled between 1922 and 2009 only 9.3% have been by women. It is fitting that the Bill should be initiated in this House and that we are making a move towards balanced gender representation by way of affirmative action and the application of a legislative gender quota. For those who remain sceptical about the effectiveness of gender quotas, it should be noted that of the world’s top ten democratic parliaments in terms of representation of women, eight employ a gender quota.

I have two concerns with respect to the Bill. Are we missing an opportunity by not applying a gender quota to European and local elections? I agree fully 50:50 Group and its contention that for quota legislation to be meaningful and to work, it must be extended to local government. By failing to do that, we run the risk of making the same mistake as was made in France where women who do not come from a political family are effectively excluded from entering local politics and thus gaining political legitimacy within their constituency.

I am sure the Minister will agree that we must ensure that the gender quota is not only implemented in isolation but that we must also encourage women to run for election. In this regard, I commend the initiative of Women for Election who endeavour to inspire, equip and inform women to run for political office and to provide tailored training and support programmes for interested women.

I look forward to the debate today and on the later Stages in the coming weeks to ensure that Ireland enters the ranks of the top ten democratic parliaments.

Senator van Turnhout welcomes historic Gender Quotas legislation

Press Statement, 2nd February 2012

*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***

Senator van Turnhout welcomes historic Gender Quotas legislation

Senator Jillian van Turnhout, leader of the Independent Group of Senators, today welcomed Minister Phil Hogan’s introduction of a Bill which will introduce gender quotas at general elections.

Senator van Turnhout commended the Bill for beginning to redress the historical under-representation of women in Irish political life. She argued that “women account for half the Irish population, yet we are vastly under-represented in the policy and decision-making processes that shape all of our futures”.

Under this Bill, each political party will be compelled to field candidates who are at least 30% female at the coming general election. At the next election, that percentage will rise to 40%. Parties which fail to reach these targets will lose half of their State funding.

Noting that only 9.3% of the 1,620 Seanad seats filled between 1922 and 2009 have been held by women, Senator van Turnhout highlighted just how poor Ireland’s record is for female representation: “We are currently ranked 22nd out of the 27 EU member states, and 79th in international rankings”.

The Senator argued that the under-representation of women was “historic and persistent”, noting that “since the foundation of the State in 1918 our Dáil has never been less than 85% male”.

This, however, is not the result of women’s lack of interest in politics. Drawing on her wide personal experience of volunteer and civil society organisations, Senator van Turnhout praised “the passion and commitment of so many women and the vital role they play in shaping Ireland for the better”.

In closing, Senator van Turnhout asked Phil Hogan TD, Minister for the Environment, Community, and Local Government, whether the House was missing an opportunity by failing to apply the legislation to local and European elections. She echoed the view of the 50/50 Group that for quota legislation to be meaningful and effective, it must to be extended to Local Government.

Finally, the Senator said that the improvement in female representation should not stop with gender quotas. She called for more encouragement to be given to women to run for election, following the initiative of Women For Election to “inspire, equip, and inform” women to run for political office.

In keeping with the ideal of equality represented by the Bill, Senator van Turnhout shared her speaking time equally with Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, and commended his proposal of changes to the Leader’s Allowance received by non-party representatives: “There are guidelines to the use of this allowance but there is no requirement to vouch or keep accounts and I would like to suggest, Minister, that the Standards in Public Office Commission draw up requirements of disclosure for non-party members of the Oireachtas. Moriarty Tribunal findings state that ‘appropriate measures should be adopted to ensure that all equivalent obligations apply to independent or non-party candidates.’”

ENDS

Senator van Turnhout welcomes historic Gender Quotas legislation

Senator Jillian van Turnhout, leader of the Independent Group of Senators, today welcomed Minister Phil Hogan’s introduction of a Bill which will introduce gender quotas at general elections.

Senator van Turnhout commended the Bill for beginning to redress the historical under-representation of women in Irish political life. She argued that “women account for half the Irish population, yet we are vastly under-represented in the policy and decision-making processes that shape all of our futures”.

Under this Bill, each political party will be compelled to field candidates who are at least 30% female at the coming general election. At the next election, that percentage will rise to 40%. Parties which fail to reach these targets will lose half of their State funding.

Noting that only 9.3% of the 1,620 Seanad seats filled between 1922 and 2009 have been held by women, Senator van Turnhout highlighted just how poor Ireland’s record is for female representation: “We are currently ranked 22nd out of the 27 EU member states, and 79th in international rankings”.

The Senator argued that the under-representation of women was “historic and persistent”, noting that “since the foundation of the State in 1918 our Dáil has never been less than 85% male”.

This, however, is not the result of women’s lack of interest in politics. Drawing on her wide personal experience of volunteer and civil society organisations, Senator van Turnhout praised “the passion and commitment of so many women and the vital role they play in shaping Ireland for the better”.

In closing, Senator van Turnhout asked Phil Hogan TD, Minister for the Environment, Community, and Local Government, whether the House was missing an opportunity by failing to apply the legislation to local and European elections. She echoed the view of the 50/50 Group that for quota legislation to be meaningful and effective, it must to be extended to Local Government.

Finally, the Senator said that the improvement in female representation should not stop with gender quotas. She called for more encouragement to be given to women to run for election, following the initiative of Women For Election to “inspire, equip, and inform” women to run for political office.

In keeping with the ideal of equality represented by the Bill, Senator van Turnhout shared her speaking time equally with Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, and commended his proposal of changes to the Leader’s Allowance received by non-party representatives: “There are guidelines to the use of this allowance but there is no requirement to vouch or keep accounts and I would like to suggest, Minister, that the Standards in Public Office Commission draw up requirements of disclosure for non-party members of the Oireachtas. Moriarty Tribunal findings state that ‘appropriate measures should be adopted to ensure that all equivalent obligations apply to independent or non-party candidates.’”

Order of Business, 1 February 2012

1st February 2012

I thank the Leader for promising to bring the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs to the House next week to discuss the treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance. Like most of us I am in the process of studying it and will form my own view. I look forward to the upcoming discussion.
I will address two matters, the first of which is the universal periodic review. Members are aware that Ireland’s human rights record was subject to its first universal periodic review hearing last October, and the report of the working group on Ireland’s review, also known as the outcome document, will be adopted by the Human Rights Council during its 19th session on 16 March this year. Of the 126 recommendations contained in the outcome document, the Government has examined and accepted 62, and 49 recommendations are currently under consideration by the Government, with responses to be provided before the Human Rights Council session in March. Some 15 recommendations, the majority of which pertain to reproductive rights and combating racism, have been rejected.

The commitments made by the Government during this process and the potential for further commitments to be made before the adoption of the outcome document should yield significant improvements in the area of prison conditions, children’s rights, gender equality, mental health, freedom of expression and combating racism and discrimination. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to the Chamber to advise and debate with Senators as to the status of the 49 recommendations under consideration, and to outline how the relevant Departments plan to build on the exemplary consultation process with non-governmental organisations and civil society in the lead-up to Ireland’s review and the next review of 2016.
There is a second issue, although I will not repeat my requests in detail. On 18 and 25 January I asked that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs be invited to the Seanad to address questions on the proposed children’s referendum, the interim measures for children currently detained in St. Patrick’s institution, the new children and family support agency and the potential to use the Children’s Rights Alliance report card as the basis for this debate. I know there is much talk of referendums in the air but I advise Senators that the children’s referendum needs to take place.

I will give a reason for this. There are 2,000 children in long-term foster care and the referendum would make them eligible for adoption. Once these children turn 18, that right is extinguished, so as the days and months roll on, let us be conscious that as we deliberate, we are potentially denying these children what everybody agrees should be allowed, namely, the security of being part of a family. I repeat my call that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs update this House on the status of the children’s rights referendum. The issue cannot be debated any longer and we must change it. There are 2,000 very good reasons to have that referendum.

The Lancet

In July 2021, Jillian co-authored an article in the world-renowned medical journal “The Lancet”