The special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography visited Ireland, at the invitation of the Government, from 14 to 21 May 2018. The special rapporteur met with representatives of a number of Departments and agencies during her visit. I met with her at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Her report assesses the situation in Ireland and makes a range of recommendations relevant to a number of Departments. I welcome the report. I have already taken steps to address a number of the recommendations relevant to my Department. For example, a submission will shortly be made to the Attorney General on the ratification of the second optional protocol on the sale and sexual exploitation of children. We will shortly be opening a pilot "one house" centre for victims of child abuse. This will bring together the supports from Tusla, the Health Service Executive, HSE, and An Garda Síochána under one roof in one house.
The development of a national strategy covering child sexual abuse and exploitation was among the recommendations of the December 2017 Garda Inspectorate report, Responding to Child Sexual Abuse - a Follow Up Review. An independently-chaired inter-agency implementation group, comprising representatives from the Departments of Justice and Equality, Children and Youth Affairs, Public Expenditure and Reform, An Garda Síochána and Tusla, has been established to examine the recommendations in that report, including in relation to the desirability of a national strategy or other overarching whole of Government framework that would coherently draw together the existing actions and key stakeholders.
Regarding the culture of silence in respect of issues of child abuse, I believe this exists too. I do, however, genuinely believe that we are making progress in acknowledging and confronting the dark, shameful unspoken secrets that exist in our communities. The Children First Act 2015, which I fully commenced in December 2017, provides for a number of key child protection measures, including raising awareness of child abuse and neglect, mandatory reporting of child protection concerns and improving child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children. There has been an increase in reports of concerns about children who may be at risk. I think this is some evidence towards moving through that culture of silence.