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Children deserve better

THE cases reviewed in the report by the Ombudsman for Children's Office (OCO) make for sad reading -- not to mention the tragic young suicide highlighted in a separate report yesterday.

The OCO report, prepared by Dr Ursula Kilkelly, senior law lecturer at University College Cork, also uses blunt language of a kind not usually found in Irish reports on public services.

It talks of "faceless, bureaucratic" decision making, which seems to apply policy without any real connection to the situation. The Children's Ombudsman, Emily Logan, expressed concern about a lack of awareness in civil and public administration of how quickly children can be damaged by depriving them of education or separating them from family.

This speaks to a situation which requires serious attention. It will add to the public feeling of unease, which stems from the worst, and therefore the most publicised cases, that the social services are failing in child care.

Yet the welfare of children in distress is one of the most difficult of all administrative issues. We do not believe it lends itself entirely to the mantra, emphasised again in yesterday's report, that the interests of the child are central.

Justice Catherine McGuinness, who was part of the review group, may have come closest when she said the rules were often applied rigidly, so that the officials would not get into trouble for breaking them.

Finding a way to let people interpret rules more flexibly, without them getting into even more trouble if things go wrong will be a daunting task, but is one worth trying.

Irish Independent