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Tuesday 19 March 2019

UK experts are consulted as child abuse probe expands

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Stock picture

Ralph Riegel

Child protection experts in the UK are being consulted as part of the expanding investigation into the operation of a suspected Irish paedophile ring.

Ireland's child protection agency, Tusla, and gardaí are being supported by UK child protection experts who have helped deal with some of the most shocking exploitation cases in England and Scotland over recent years.

The move came as one source warned the investigation is dealing with what is suspected to be the biggest paedophile ring ever uncovered in Ireland.

One source revealed that what the investigation has already uncovered is "truly shocking".

"We are talking about a level of child abuse and exploitation that is more accurately referred to as torture," they said.

Eleven people - five men and six women - were arrested but subsequently released without charge last week.

All were questioned about the alleged abuse and sexual exploitation of children.

A file is now being prepared in relation to the Garda investigation for the Director of Public Prosecution.

The scale and nature of the matters under investigation are so serious that both Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Children's Minister Katherine Zappone have been briefed.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the matter was "deeply shocking".

He has mooted a possible inquiry to determine that every measure was taken at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure the safety of the children involved.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted his information is that all State agencies acted in accordance with procedures and protocols.

"I have been briefed on this issue by Minister Zappone," he said.

"She is keeping me in touch with the facts of the case and, at this stage, what we do not want to do is anything to jeopardise or that will compromise the privacy of those children," he said.

The district court judge involved has warned the media that strict reporting restrictions are in place over the matter and any breach of the court orders involved would result in serious consequences.

The judge issued the warning after an application from Tusla, the child protection agency, for clarity from the court in respect of previous orders made in respect of publicity over the ongoing case.

Gardaí also expressed concern that publicity could jeopardise their investigation and any potential future criminal proceedings.

Orders under Sections 28, 18 and 17 of the Childcare Act, 1991 are now in place.

The judge warned the identity of the vulnerable parties involved must be protected - and expressed particular concern over reporting of geographic details of the case.

"There is no point in making such an order if the media is to trash and disrespect it," the judge said.

Irish Independent

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