May 28, 2009 § Leave a comment
Yesterday saw the launch of Labour’s Manifesto for Dublin on the Millennium Bridge. I joined Deputy Leader Joan Burton, Dublin Central by-election candidate Ivana Bacik and some of the many Labour Councillors to launch what I believe, is a new vision for Dublin.
This city of ours has enormous potential. A quarter of the Irish population live in the capital. Tourists continue to flock to the city and in the sunshine of today, it can be a cultural mecca.
Yet, the city has suffered under the 15 years of Fianna Fáil-led governments with bad planning, bad resources and right now, a bad unemployment problem. Our plan for the city, like the rest of our campiagn, is about jobs, jobs, jobs.
We must get our city back working again. Something as simple as stimulating and supporting small and medium enterprises in the city can be the precursor to an increase in employment. Labour also proposes that a council apprenticeship scheme be set up, which not only will retrain and upskill workers, but contribute to the work of the four local authorities in upkeeping the city and county.
But the manifesto also addresses some issues which will serve to improve the lives of Dubliners. As a cyclist, I find the city’s streets a nightmare at times. Labour proposes to prioritise safe, uninteruppted 24-hour cycle lanes that will increase safety.
We will also reverse the current cuts to Dublin Bus services.
This manifesto seeks to address two fundamental matters in Dublin: to get Dubliners back to work; and to improve the lives of all Dubliners, right across the city. Labour councillors have worked hard in order to improve this city, but for a real difference we need to change nationally. A strong Labour in the Dáil can only be better for our capital city.
May 25, 2009 § Leave a comment
This afternoon, the Labour Party launched ‘Cherishing Children’ – our new manifesto for children. As the Party Spokesperson on Children, I attended the press launch with Leader Eamon Gilmore and our by-election hopeful in Dublin Central, Senator Ivana Bacik.
In these economically difficult times, it is very easy for a government to pull investment away from those who need it most – our children. What this policy document does is outline a core Labour belief that investment in children is fundamental to a better economy.
According to the OECD, Ireland is at the bottom of the league for early
childhood education, with only 2 per cent of three year olds in statesubsidised pre-school. This compares to 100 per cent in Italy and France.
The Labour Party fought the 2007 General Election with a commitment that if elected, we would introduce one year of free childhood education for every child. Although Minister for Children Barry Andrews announced in the last budget the introduction of such a scheme, it’s implementation has been haphazard and with 7 months to go until the scheme is launched, we still have not been given the full details of the scheme. We don’t know the curriculum. We don’t know if they have enough staff to cope. This is worrying for parents and providers.
If the country is to be economically vibrant again, investment in children is essential. One of the focuses of ‘Cherishing Children’ is on how the boom that we had never guaranteed an improvement in a child’s well-being. We built homes and new towns, but not the schools to cope with the surge in population. Only last week I visited Holy Trinity NS which spent €125,000 last year on prefabs. On Friday I will be attending St Colmcille’s Junior School which has been waiting reconstruction despite the fact it was promised by Fianna Fail in the last general election. I’ve raised their situation in the Seanad previously:
This government has withdrawn funding for school books, has reduced investment in playgrounds and has deemed building footpaths an optional investment. They withdrew support for the Cervical Cancer Vaccine. Cherishing Children seeks to place children at the heart of Labour policy at local level, at national level and at European level. We will seek to reverse the decision on the Cervical Cancer Vaccine. We will seek to replace anti-social behaviour at nighttime with sport and recreation. We will support the setting up of a pan-European missing children’s hotline.
Studies have shown that if the State invests in children, they will receive multiples of that investment back in tax, less social welfare and a successful knowledge-based economy. Labour strongly believes in this.
May 21, 2009 § 2 Comments
The Seanad should take careful note of what has been said by a representative of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in relation to adding blasphemy to the Defamation Bill. His comments were reported in yesterday’s newspapers. I ask the House and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to consider a proposal I would like to make. According to the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, he needs to resolve a constitutional dilemma in this area by means of legislation or by means of a constitutional amendment. I am a member of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution which recently recommended that the relevant section of the Constitution should be deleted.
Senator Regan is also a member of the all-party committee, which clearly recommended that this provision should be removed from the Constitution. That view is clearly shared across the board in these Houses. That is the correct way to proceed.
My suggestion to the Minister, through the Leader, is that if the parties in the Oireachtas agree that a series of amendments to the Constitution should be put to the people at an appropriate time, perhaps, although not necessarily, in October of this year, a referendum on the question of blasphemy should be put on that list of matters to be determined by the people on referendum day.
It would be proper to remove the provision in question from the Constitution. If the Minister’s comments are to be taken in good faith, it appears he believes he must do one thing or the other. He seems to be concerned about the possibility of addressing this issue by means of a constitutional amendment. We do not need to have a referendum on this issue tomorrow or the day after. It does not even need to take place this year, although it should not be put on the long finger.
In fairness, this matter has been on the table for ten years. We have lived with other interpretations of the Constitution. We have not rushed to introduce legislation to cater for the outcome of the X case, for example, although I believe we should have done so. In such circumstances, I propose that the Leader of the Seanad should try to secure all-party agreement to ask the Minister to address the matter of blasphemy by means of constitutional amendment at an appropriate time in the future. We should not have to deal with the legislative distraction the Minister is considering.
May 20, 2009 § Leave a comment
The Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, published today, depicts a truly shocking and sordid saga of the systematic abuse and neglect of thousands of Irish children who were handed over by the state into the custody of religious orders over a period of more than three decades.
While we have heard the vivid accounts of individual victims and even accounts of abuse in particular institutions, the cumulative impact of the details given in the report is absolutely shocking.
In these five volumes we have the personal accounts of 1090 men and women who were subject to physical, emotional and sexual abuse, neglect and wanton cruelty in more than 216 schools and institutions. And we know that these are only a representative group of the many of thousands of children who were similarly abused.
It is very clear from this report that the State and the Religious Institutions share the blame for the terrible treatment meted out to these children. Indeed the report is particularly critical of the role of the Department of Education, suggesting in particular that what it describes as the ‘deferential and submissive attitude’ of the Department towards the Congregations ‘compromised its ability to carry out its statutory duty of inspection and monitoring of the schools’.
In the light of these findings it is a matter of particular concern that it was the same Department that negotiated the irresponsible and profligate indemnity deal with the Religious Institutions in 2002. The original recommendation from the Department of Finance was that financial liability for compensation for the damage done to these children should be shared 50:50 between the state and the Religious Congregations. However, the deal negotiated by the Department and then Minister for Education, Dr.Michael Woods limited the Congregations liability to €127m, which we know now represents only around 10% of the total cost.
This is a matter that the Labour Party will be returning to, but today is a day for the victims and for a collective acknowledgement by Irish society of the terrible damage done to these children.
We all owe Judge Sean Ryan – and Judge Mary Laffoy before him- a debt of gratitude for the enormous the huge task of work they took on. I hope that the government will accept and urgently act on the recommendations made in the report.
May 19, 2009 § Leave a comment
Yesterday, Eamon hopped on his bike in order to push Alex White to the Dáil! We had a photocall outside the gates of Leinster House with the Labour Leader. The media seemed to take a liking to Eamon’s Tour de Merrion Square, with the aid of a little push by myself!
The Irish Independent:
‘”I hope we’re not breaking the law, lads?” he [Eamon] half-laughed anxiously, but the boys in blue weren’t the slightest bit bothered. They were outside Leinster House where weird stuff happens on a regular basis.’
You can see all the photos on my Facebook page. Simply click on the link on the right hand side.
May 18, 2009 § Leave a comment
I appeared on last night’s edition of The Week in Politics on RTE One. It was a Dublin South by-election debate that included Fine Gael’s George Lee and Fianna Fáil’s Shay Brennan.
You can view the programme by clicking here (starts at 32mins).