Emerging Irish research, such as the Greentown Study, commissioned by my Department, identifies a small number of children in the state who fall victim to the influence of criminal networks and gangs, as foot-soldiers or couriers. These children are thus more likely to enter the criminal justice system and serve periods of detention. This can have profound negative impacts on their emotional and physical well-being as well as affecting the opportunities available to them as adults.
My Department commissioned further research under a partnership project with the University of Limerick. Funding of €1.2 million (€450,000 in 2018 and €750,000 in 2019) was allocated under the Dormant Accounts Act, 2012. It facilitates the expansion of the research begun with the Greentown Study. It is intended to replicate this study in two other towns. Additionally, a national survey will be conducted to indicate how widespread the Greentown findings are. This will culminate in an expert-led intervention programme to be trialled next year.
It is my hope that, through this research, we will be in a position to make robust interventions available to motivate and assist vulnerable children in danger of criminal influence and their families.