TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has warned that child abuse is still pervasive here – with neglect in the family home emerging as the biggest problem.
Speaking to an international conference of more than 700 delegates about the type of problems being reported to social workers in ever-increasing numbers he said: "Neglect is now the most common type of abuse of children.
"Picture a child going to school in the rain without a winter coat. In damp, dirty clothes having not had a breakfast. Going home, with no guarantee of dinner, to a cold house, not a home," he said.
Mr Kenny said he was committed as Taoiseach to do whatever he could to prevent the "evil" and "misery" of child abuse.
"Family is very important to us in this country. It behoves us when we have the levers of responsibility to do what we can and what is necessary for humanity in its most basic form to flourish – that's for children to have a childhood and have a life they can live in the interest of us all," he said.
A new child and family support agency is being formed from the merger of three existing agencies – with a staff of 4,000 and a budget of nearly €600m.
But there are still shortages of workers to respond to the increasing reports of child abuse through neglect.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the huge number of social workers on maternity leave and leaving the service was a challenge.
"We are replacing the vacancies, but there is a big movement out of the service," she said.
She and Mr Kenny were attending the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect's European conference in Dublin.
The event was located in Dublin with the help of support from Failte Ireland's "Gathering" fund and is estimated to be worth €750,000 to the Dublin economy.