Dep Hildegarde Naughton said this week she had been assured that the HSE would not offer outpatient appointments to sex offenders at a new facility, Sherwood House, located beside a city primary school.
Concerns had previously been raised that the community mental health facility, located behind Scoil Fhursa, would offer treatment to outpatients with a history of sex offending behaviour as part of its remit.
Dep Naughton contacted the HSE about the matter after speaking with concerned parents. She also raised concerns about the linking of mental health issues with sex offending behaviour, and stressed that outpatients are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.
“After the parents of children attending the school contacted me, I have to say my first response was disbelief," she said this week. "While I completely accept that sex offenders require treatment, one had to question the logic of thinking that cheek by jowl with a primary school was the correct place to do it.
"It is in the public interest that sex offenders be rehabilitated if possible, thus reducing the risk to the community. However, providing that treatment in close proximity to children of 12 years and under has the potential to place them in danger.
“I therefore wrote to both the HSE and the Minister for Health asking that this decision be reviewed as a matter of urgency.
"Repeat offending among sex offenders is difficult to quantify due to the secret nature of such abuse, but it is estimated that about 36 per cent of sex offenders go on to offend again within a five-year period.
"I am pleased to learn that treatment will not therefore be offered to such offenders within feet of a primary school,” Dep Naughton continued.
“I have no wish to demonise those convicted of sex offences; they need treatment, but the safety of our children must come first.
“In general terms, people attending a community mental health team are no more violent or likely to offend than those attending a GP service or any other medical outpatient facility," she asserted. "In fact, the evidence suggests that they are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.
“It is unfortunate, therefore, that there was a link created between the offering of such mental health services at Nile Lodge and the treatment of sex offenders. I think better communication could have helped alleviate the stress and worry parents suffered over the last week and I will be continuing to liaise with the HSE in relation to this matter.”