THE Children's Minister has said the haunting images on an expose of the country's creches will "strike horror into every parent".
Frances Fitzgerald said inspections of the country's creches clearly needs to be strengthened following the RTE production.
An undercover reporter filmed numerous images of child mistreatment at three creches – Giraffe Belarmine, Links Childcare in Abington, Malahide, and Little Harvard in Rathnew – which were shown to the nation last night.
Today, Ms Fitzgerald, a mother-of-three, said it was "deeply distressing and absolutely unacceptable" how children were cared for in the creches exposed.
"It cannot continue. Parents watching that will be very haunted by those images. It will strike horror into every parent watching.
"When anybody sees abuse going on, when we see inappropriate behaviour with young children, that is deeply disturbing.
"We certainly saw extremely bad practice. I felt I witnessed emotional abuse of children on the programme last night.
"When I look at two-year-olds being subject to ritualistic kind of demands that were inappropriate for their age, I do consider that emotional abuse," Ms Fitzgerald said.
She said parents will be able to check online on their children's pre-school HSE inspection report within weeks.
"New reports will be online within a couple of weeks," she said.
Ms Fitzgerald accepted that questions arose over the quality, range, follow-up and compliance of HSE inspections.
She said extra inspectors were being recruited for a number of areas. However, there was no commitment to greatly increase HSE inspectors or set aside funding specifically for it. We need more robust inspections. We do need a stronger inspection regime.
"We do need more follow up and we do need the inspections to take account of a broader range of issues such as quality issues," she said. "The whole area of under fives has been inadequately focussed on for the past 10 years. I believe we have not put enough attention into these areas."
Annie Callanan, HSE head of quality and standards for children's Services, said the Prime Time production was a shocking programme for any regulator to have to watch.
While Ms Fitzgerald said the inspection reports would be online within a couple of weeks, Ms Callanan said it would take place within months.
"Nobody is suggesting that what we saw last night is the norm in any creche."
She said inspections at the country's creches happen on average every 20 months.
"I think we need more capacity in the system. We need to look at where our resources are at the moment and where they are distributed around the country.
"We are tightening regulation. We need to be more robust," Ms Callanan said.
She said she wanted to reassure parents the vast majority of children in the country's creches have "a fantastic experience".
Early Childhood Ireland said: "There are no excuses to justify such poor practice."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the nature of inspections on childcare facilities need to change.
He said standards at all crèches had to be at the highest level and insisted that HSE inspections must improve.