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€405m earned from Meta fine for endangering children should directly benefit children – Ombudsman for Children

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, commenting today (Thursday) on the details of the Data Protection Commission’s final decision in relation to a €405m fine imposed on Meta, has said that the proceeds of the fine that will come to the Irish Exchequer should be invested directly into children’s services.

“We learned today that the €405m fine imposed on Meta last week for putting teenagers in danger will result in a €405m windfall for the Irish Exchequer. This money should not go into the general pot but instead should be funnelled into services and supports that will directly benefit children – specifically vulnerable children and children experiencing poverty.

“The circumstances that brought about this massive fine are shocking and upsetting. Children should be protected while they are online, and we should be able to rely on those running the platforms they are using, to consider their safety and wellbeing.

“However, we cannot change what has happened and we must instead take the opportunity to turn a negative for children into a positive. I have long been advocating for ring fenced funding for children and this is a real opportunity to specifically target funding in this way.

“The country as a whole is dealing with the cost of living crisis, and while everyone is feeling under pressure, there is a significant minority who have been crushed by it. Recent data shows that 581,334 people are living in poverty in Ireland and of this number, around 164,000 are children. We also know that 3,071 children are experiencing homelessness, according to the latest monthly report by the Department of Housing. Here is a real opportunity to make a significant, targeted investment in the children who need help the most.

“Earlier this year, the Government published its EU Child Guarantee National Action Plan. It is expected that this plan will see a €50m investment in tackling child poverty over 3 years. Think of the difference €405m would make in driving change in this area.

“It is also worth noting that the Data Protection Commission has specifically prioritised children in their Strategic Plan and will work to safeguard the rights of children in the protection of their personal data. It is reasonable therefore to expect that there may be other fines of this kind and ring fencing funding in this way could make a big difference for our most vulnerable children.”