05 February 2015

Minister Fitzgerald hosts summit on tackling online child sexual exploitation in Ireland

- Minister holds roundtable meeting with ICT industry, social media and An Garda Síochána on tackling online child sexual exploitation

- Event marks Irish follow-up to Global Summit held in London last December

Frances Fitzgerald, TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, today held a roundtable meeting in Farmleigh House with representatives from the ICT Industry, social media and An Garda Síochána to discuss efforts in tackling online child sexual exploitation.

The meeting was attended by representatives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, UPC, Twitter, Vodafone, Eircom, IBM, ASK.FM, the Irish Cellular Industry Association, the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland, An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality.

Minister Fitzgerald stated: “The scale of child sexual abuse online is quite staggering and requires a determined response from all relevant stakeholders.”

“Today’s event follows on from the Global Summit to Tackle Online Child Sexual Exploitation which I attended in London last December. At that Global Summit, I committed to engage further with information and communication service providers and social media companies based in Ireland and to encourage further cross sector collaboration to tackle online child sexual exploitation in Ireland.”

The Minister stated: “Today’s meeting allowed for a concerted review of a range of very serious child protection issues from the prevalence of online child sexual abuse material, to the sexual exploitation of children online and solicitation and grooming for the purposes of child sexual exploitation.”

“To the fore in all our minds today is the fact that behind all of the images and videos that are posted, shared or traded online are children that have been subjected to harrowing abuse and cruelty. We must continue in our efforts to bring perpetrators to justice; remove imagery from the web and protect vulnerable children.”

The Minister added: “Ireland is already taking a number of proactive measures to enhance our international contribution to the global effort in tackling these vile crimes.”

“I recently published heads of the new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2014. This Bill proposes wide ranging reforms of the law, including stronger sanctions aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation. The Bill includes new criminal offences to protect children against grooming, including online,  as well as new & strengthened offences to tackle child pornography. These new offences will greatly strengthen Ireland’s laws to protect children from sexual exploitation. The new offences also reflect the reality that predatory sexual activity to target children can now take place online, for example via social media.

“In addition, An Garda Síochána are improving their capacity to investigate child pornography cases as well as introducing and developing the blocking initiative."

Gardaí and UPC recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will see illegal material on the internet in Ireland blocked by UPC in accordance with a list to be supplied by the Gardaí.

The Minister today reiterated her hope “that other companies will follow suit in this very worthy endeavour."