Order of Business, 16 May 2012

My colleague, Senator Quinn, raised the matter of the missing children’s hotline, 116000, on the Order of Business yesterday. The theme of this year’s international missing children’s day, which is 25 May, is child abduction safety. Senators will be aware that 25 May will also mark the first anniversary of this Seanad. It would be fitting if the hotline could be in place and operational by that date. On 12 October last, the Seanad agreed an all-party, all-group motion calling for the missing children’s hotline to be brought fully into operation. Since then, ComReg has allocated the number in question to the service. I welcome the changed message that now directs anybody who rings 116000 to the Garda or to the ISPCC Childline. I note that the number cannot be telephoned from an Oireachtas handset. Hopefully, we will not have to report it. I will follow that issue up with the Oireachtas authorities. The number has been allocated but the service is not yet in operation. Similar hotlines in other EU member states take calls from and offer support to anyone concerned about a missing child, including parents and children. They take calls regarding different types of child disappearance, including runaways, parental abductions, missing unaccompanied migrant minors, criminal abductions and children who are lost, injured or otherwise missing.

The EU has been asking Ireland for five years to put this hotline in place. It is not too much to ask for the Government to ensure it is fully operational by 25 May next. Will the Deputy Leader ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to come before this House at the earliest opportunity to confirm that the hotline will be operational by 25 May? If the hotline will not be up and running by that date, will the Deputy Leader ask the Minister the reason for such a delay? I suggest that the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, should outline the plans of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to publicise and promote the missing children’s hotline so that Ireland is not a missing link in child abduction cases. We need to ensure that every child in Ireland, including those who might be going away over the summer, knows this number. They should be made aware that if they are in another EU member state, they can ring the number and talk to someone who can help them.