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Sunday 22 July 2018

Plans to ban paedophiles and sex offenders from travelling abroad to be unveiled

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Ed Carty

Proposed new laws to ban paedophiles and sex offenders from foreign travel are to be unveiled in the new year.

Plans to radically expand the passport "stop list" have been drafted after four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Father Shay Cullen called on western governments to stop rampant sex tourism.

Fr Cullen, who has been rescuing street children in the Philippines since 1974, said paedophiles should be barred from going overseas in the same way as suspected terrorists.

"I expect that the Irish people and the Dail will support it and set an example for other EU countries," he said.

"As a result convicted child sex offenders will be unable to travel to countries like the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia where enforcement of child protection laws are very weak and children and their parents are vulnerable to the monetary enticements of well-off Irish sex offenders."

Politicians from all sides will be asked to back the Sex Offenders Amendment Bill, with Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan aiming to introduce it in January.

"I'm kind of optimistic. I'm feeling positive," she said.

"But I want to make sure that it's something that can be accepted by everybody."

Father Shay Cullen called on western governments to stop rampant sex tourism
Father Shay Cullen called on western governments to stop rampant sex tourism

Ms O'Sullivan, part of the Independents4Change group, said the aim is to limit or prevent sex offenders and paedophiles with Irish passports from travelling to countries with lax or no child protection laws.

"It is particularly apt in the light of all the revelations of abuse against minors by people in positions of influence," she said.

Legal advisers have spent weeks examining if there is a constitutional issue with barring convicted offenders from using passports, similar to the practice in the UK where suspected terrorists are on a so-called "stop list" and are restricted from foreign travel.

Ms O'Sullivan said the reform was also apt in light of further revelations about how former Irish swimming coach George Gibney, who had sex offence charges against him dismissed in the 1990s, lives in the US.

Columban missionary Fr Cullen has run Preda.org (People's Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance) in the Philippines for more than 40 years, rescuing victims of sex abuse and human trafficking and children detained illegally in jails.

He repeatedly warns about the hundreds of thousands of sex tourists from Europe, including the UK and Ireland, the US and Australia.

Speaking from Olongapo city, he said: "For most of my life I have tried to protect children in the Philippines and elsewhere from local and travelling sex offenders.

"The legislation will surely prevent the sexual abuse of many children in developing nations."

Fr Cullen was nominated for the Nobel prize for the fourth time this year.

Press Association

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