PRESS RELEASE: “If we do not resource our Gardaí to do this work, we are willingly turning a blind eye to one of the worst harms that can happen to a child”

Published date: 
13 Oct 2021

Press Release

“If we do not resource our Gardaí to do this work, we are willingly turning a blind eye to one of the worst harms that can happen to a child”

In response to Budget2022, the #123OnlineSafety Campaign group welcome the important investment for the Gardaí (Garda National Protective Services Bureau) in order to address one of the most serious online harms for children and young people.

“This is not an issue that is underground. It is online, it is visible, and it is widespread,” said Maeve Lewis, CEO of One in Four Ireland. “ recently published its Annual Review which reported a 142% increase in child sexual abuse material which appeared to be self-generated images or videos. Just one public report can lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of online child sexual abuse material. Our Gardaí do exceptional work investigating these reports, but it is essential that they receive the funding and resources that enable them to do so. This additional investment will not only address the crimes occurring now, but it will also serve as an important preventive measure as we have seen that accessing this type of content at a very young age can lead to people committing offences later on in life.”

Welcoming the investment of an additional €10.5 million to Garda operations, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance stated; “The issue was brought into public light last month with the conviction of Eric Eoin Marques, labelled as the ‘kingpin of child sexual abuse imagery’. The commendable work of the Gardaí here lifted the lid on one of the largest stores of child sexual abuse material and effectively prevented further harm to children and young people as a result. The internet adds fuel to flame allowing this kind of content to rapidly spread. It is undeniably the child protection issue of our time. Our society has a responsibility to keep all children safe, and that responsibility does not change just because the environment we are talking about is online. The more we invest, the more we can achieve in this space.”

“The infrastructure of the internet can facilitate and magnify the dissemination of child sexual abuse material and other illegal and harmful content. Any measure to tackle this issue needs to have an infrastructure equally as tight and robust. Online services were not built with child safety in mind, so we must ensure that we have robust and responsive structures that can make up for this. The 1,2,3 Online Safety campaign continues to advocate for dedicated and identifiable Online Safety Commissioner as part of the new Media Commission. A direct and open line of communication between an Online Safety Commissioner and the Garda Commissioner could enhance both offices' ability to track down this content and perpetrators,” said Mark Smyth, Past President of the Psychological Society of Ireland. “It is welcome to hear the announcement of an initial allocation of €5.5 million in yesterday’s Budget to formally establish the new Media Commission and hire an Online Safety Commissioner. It is critical that this office is adequately resourced from the outset if the Government is serious about protecting children online as well supporting the other functions of the Commission.”

Contact: Emma Archbold Children’s Rights Alliance, Tel: 01-662 9400 / 0879971410, Email:

Notes to Editor:
• Spokespeople from each organisation are available for interview upon request.
• Read the Budget 2022 submission of the Children’s Rights Alliance here.
• Read the campaign submission on General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill here.
• The #123OnlineSafety national campaign is co-ordinated by the Children’s Rights Alliance which sees 16 member organisations leading in online safety, digital rights and youth participation unite to push for critical changes in the area. Members include Alcohol Action Ireland, Barretstown, Barnardos, BeLonG To, CyberSafeKids, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Foróige, Irish Heart Foundation, ISPCC, National Youth Council of Ireland, One in Four, Psychological Society of Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Scouting Ireland, and Young Social Innovators.
• The campaign is supported by The Community Foundation for Ireland via The RTÉ does Comic Relief Fund #RTEComicRelief

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