In a Seanad debate yesterday, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter TD made a commitment to consider implementing blocking to stop Irish internet users from accessing child pornography.
The motion, proposed by Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Marie Louise O’Donnell on behalf of the Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees), called for Ireland to follow the UK, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Malta, Australia, and New Zealand, in blocking access to sites hosting photographic images of child abuse, even where those sites are located outside of Irish jurisdiction.
While Irish law currently allows for the removal of such material where it is hosted on a server within the State’s jurisdiction, Senator van Turnhout argued that “We are forced to rely on other jurisdictions applying the same standard for removal at source as we apply to material hosted on domestic sites. Where other countries are uncooperative or simply unable to remove this material in a reasonable time, Ireland has a duty to block access to it in some other way”.
Senator van Turnhout also pointed out that, in fact, such blocking exists in one form in Ireland: mobile operators like Vodafone, O2, and Meteor subscribe to the Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content and already prevent their users from accessing this material.
Describing the ongoing harm caused to victims as long as material remains available, Senator O’Donnell said that “Abusive pornographic images of children on the internet stay with the children throughout their entire lives. The child ends up being defined by defilement forever”.
The motion further called for legislation which would establish a victim identification database, to help identify victims and thus prevent further abuse. This would also lead to swifter and more efficient prosecution of abusers and the disruption of criminal networks which disseminate this material.
Responding to the Independent Group motion, Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter TD said: “I am, this evening, giving a commitment to this House that blocking will be fully considered in the context of the development of the planned Sexual Offences Bill”.