The Fianna Fáil Frontbench has today agreed to establish a Special Working Group on Child Internet Safety. The decision came as the shocking details of Matthew Horan’s appalling crimes came to light in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and will be focused on implementing and building on the recommendations of the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group, which reported in 2014 and whose report has largely been ignored by Government.
Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte TD commented, “This terrifying case serves as a wakeup call to the entire political and legal community of the dangers facing our children every time they lift up a phone or tablet, and the shockingly inadequate response on behalf of the Irish state to this threat.
“There was complete unanimity at today’s Frontbench meeting with the view that this issue requires urgent and dedicated focus and that the Fianna Fáil party needs to use its mandate and influence in Dáil Éireann to drive forward change and increase the protections offered to our children.
“A Special Working Group on Child Internet Safety will now be established, with the task of bringing forward measures to implement the recommendations of the Government’s Advisory Group from 2014. We will also seek expert opinion on what additional measures can be taken to counter the threat that very clearly exists.
Justice Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan TD also commented, “It is simply unacceptable that this report, on an issue as important as our children’s safety, has been left to gather dust in Government Buildings.
“The Taoiseach has been sending mixed signals for months on what he is prepared to do and whether or not he will appoint a Digital Safety Commissioner. This uncertainty has to end and the various social media platforms need to get the message that Ireland takes the online safety of its children seriously and that our Parliament will do whatever is necessary to ensure such safety.
“The report of the Advisory Group is an excellent place to start and will provide context for immediate action. The Fianna Fáil Working Group will be examining international best and most innovative practice. All options must be on the table in this effort. The membership of the Working Group will be confirmed in the coming days.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health James Browne also commented, “There is a growing body of evidence which shows that social media is having an adverse impact on children’s mental health. We need new measures to hold social media companies to account and ensure they are putting safeguards in place to protect children’s mental health.
Fianna Fáil Technology Spokesperson James Lawless said, “There are currently a number of different Departments and State bodies dealing with issues relating to children and their use of the internet and social media. There is no central authority responsible for creating policies and responding to the threats faced by children online. This is something which will simply have to change.”