Monday 17 June 2019

Varadkar wants to 'verify' State agencies obeyed procedure in paedophile probe

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone Picture: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone Picture: Steve Humphreys
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Leo Varadkar says he has been assured that all State agencies involved in the investigation of an alleged paedophile ring acted in "accordance with procedure".

The Taoiseach said the Government would investigate the response of agencies involved with the case.

He also added that "crimes of a sexual nature against a child are the most heinous".

The Dáil was told this week that as many as 20 children have been identified as alleged victims of what is feared to be one of the largest paedophile rings this country has ever seen.

The Taoiseach was briefed on the investigation by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone this week and will be updated on any developments as the case progresses.

A whistleblower had raised concerns about how urgently the allegations were responded to when they first arose.

Mr Varadkar said he had been told all the State agencies involved in the case responded appropriately. However, he said this would need to be "verified".

He said his priorities were ensuring the alleged victims were cared for and their privacy not breached.

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

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

Eleven people were arrested as part of a Garda inquiry into the case this week.

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All of them were later released and files on the matter are being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has also been briefed on the case and a Garda investigation into a paedophile ring remains ongoing.

The idea of an official inquiry was mooted by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin after concerns about the urgency at which the claims were investigated were reported by a whistleblower.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged a number of serious allegations have been made, but that they have yet to be proved.

He said he had been assured State agencies responded appropriately.

However, he added that he wanted to verify this fact.

"I can't say that at this stage [if there will be an inquiry into the matter]," he said.

"There are allegations being made, but I think any allegations being made have to be supported by evidence and facts before you can act on them.

"Certainly, the Government agencies concerned and the relevant agencies concerned are saying they did everything in accordance with procedure and we need to verify that now.

"The worst type of crime is a crime against a child and crimes of a sexual nature against a child are the most heinous in my view.

"Our priorities, first of all, are to protect the privacy of the children involved in this case and also to make sure anyone who needs to be brought to justice is brought to justice."

Irish Independent

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