A sensational Irish television investigative program showed young children being verbally and physically threatened in some of Ireland’s top child care centers.

RTE’s Prime Time program
used hidden cameras at three of Ireland’s best known child care centers in Dublin and Wicklow which showed staff roughly handling kids, strapping toddlers in high chairs for hours on end, screaming at the children and fabricating diary entries to include kids who had not shown up in order to claim government benefits for them. One of the centers in Wicklow was callled “Little Harvard”.

Minister for Children Francis FitzGerald said the footage was “deeply upsetting, unacceptable and cannot continue”.

She told Irish radio that “parents watching will be very haunted by those images”.

“Obviously that would strike horror into every parent watching.”

“The instances we saw in relation to young children and the way they were being dealt with, the way they were being fed and the lack of understanding of a child’s development at the age of two, all of those instances were dreadful to watch, deeply upsetting, unacceptable and cannot continue. That is why I want this focus on the early years, the under fives I felt that I witnessed emotional abuse of children on the programme last night.”

She said she was intent on a major investigation: “I accept responsibility for being absolutely clear about what the problems are, how to address them, having a vision and a plan to deal with those issues which were raised. That is what has been happening behind the scenes in relation to this issue.”

“I think it’s extremely important not to say to parents that every childcare facility in this country has the type of issues that we saw last night. That’s really important. Parents are not powerless in this situation and it’s very important that parents become even more powerful, that they have discussions with their provider, that they monitor, they ask questions, they go in there, they link with the local inspectors.”

In a statement last night RTÉ anounced it would not be putting the program online. 

“Please note that this edition of Prime Time will not be available on the RTÉ Player and will not be repeated after this evening.

“It is the express wish of the parents of the children involved that no screen-grabs or audio relating to creche footage are reproduced in broadcast, print or online.”