ISPCC demands missing child hotline
The Government has been warned it is on its last chance to adopt a Europe-wide hotline for missing children.
Ireland is one of 14 European Union (EU) states yet to activate the 116 000 hotline to protect vulnerable youngsters and advise anxious parents.
The country has been told it has until next May to put the special number into action.
Rhona McGinn, a regional manager for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), said the hotline would be vital in the fight to safeguard children across the continent.
"In order to better protect and support children, Ireland needs to make certain we have an operational 116 000 service," she said.
"The ISPCC believes this is a vital service for missing children and their families, whether they have been abducted, run away, lost or taken by a parent."
All EU states have been ordered to set up the 116 000 hotline for missing children by the middle of next year. It can also offer parents advice and counselling support.
Ireland, along with Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Sweden, has yet to activate the number. It is partially operational in the UK.
The aim of the hotline is to create uniform responses to helping children and parents in trouble and give them the necessary help when away from home, such as family holidays. Twelve countries have already adopted the system.
Europe Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said having a common number would be a potential lifeline for missing youngsters.