RTE withheld information from Tusla, the agency responsible for child protection within the state, that could potentially have helped the agency intervene with rogue Creche providers earlier, Gript can report.

At least two months went by when RTE had knowledge of active fire hazards and threats to the safety of the children in the ‘care’ of Hyde of Seek and before it alerted Tusla, the statutory body charged with enforcing compliance of children’s welfare.

RTE commenced its investigation of the “Hyde and Seek” facilities in April of this year, but did not alert Tusla to potential dangers to children until July.

The documentary, shown on July 24th, demonstrated substantial shortfalls in standards in the childcare system, and lead to a public outcry after footage appeared to show Children being mistreated in creches in Dublin.

As part of the accountability process, Tusla appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.

Tusla told the committee that RTE had the information on the distressing arrangements at Hyde and Seek for some time before Tusla received it.

Here is what it said to the Committee (emphasis added):

“it is most important to state in the clearest possible terms that Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate had no evidence of the serious child protection concerns or the high degree of serious non-compliance with standards that was shown in the RTÉ programme.

Tusla first received information from RTE in late July in relation to serious concerns regarding the quality of care in these services which provided evidence of poor practice and allowed the Early Years Inspectorate to take additional action further to that set out earlier.

Tusla then contacted RTE to seek any further information that would assist it in taking further action to protect children. Footage of a chronology of incidents identified by RTE since they commenced their undercover investigation last April was provided and there is currently on-going liaison with them in relation to this in order to identify and address any child protection concern.”

“Late” July. In other words, since the documentary was broadcast on July 24th, RTE could not have told Tusla any more than a day or two in advance.

This obviously gives rise to serious questions. RTE, of course, will claim that it needed time to complete its investigation before handing over the relevant information to Tusla.

On the other hand, though you could very well argue that given the immediacy of the threat around crowding and inability of staff to securely and quickly remove children in the event of a fire, RTE were obligated to alert the relevant authorities sooner.

RTE has not commented on its reasons for not informing Tusla of the potential issues when it discovered them. The documentary would have spent several weeks in pre-production, so the idea that RTE was not in a position to inform the agency earlier seems dubious at best.

Was RTE just trying to protect its story? And, given the seriousness of these issues, what responsibility would it have borne if a child had been seriously injured, or worse, in the period between the state broadcaster learning of these issues, and the date it finally decided to tell the agency that could have done something about it?

Does “public service” broadcasting not come with a responsibility to actually perform public service, when you have the opportunity to do so?