Speaking at launch of Labour’s Manifesto for Children
If this election is about anything, it is about families, about protecting children, and about securing a better future for our young people.
Ireland has the highest proportion of children in the EU, with almost one-quarter of our population below the age of 18. Yet, for too long, Ireland has fallen short of the aspiration that an independent Ireland would be a country that treated all the children of the nation equally.
We in Labour believe that children should have the best possible start in a world that has become vastly more uncertain and precarious. But this belief is not just a pious aspiration. We are today backing it up with a specific set of proposals in a children’s manifesto that we believe will deliver genuine change for children and for families.
First and foremost, we believe that our children should not be made to pay for the current economic crisis and for this reason, Labour will not cut child benefit, particularly in the wake of recent budgets in which family incomes have already taken a substantial hit.
Labour also believes that the delay in proceeding with the referendum on children’s rights has been unacceptable. Labour will ensure that a children’s rights referendum is urgently progressed.
It is our view that Ireland’s child protection code and system should be more robust. Labour is committed to putting in place the strongest, child-centred legal framework to protect children from sexual, physical, and mental abuse.
We have led the charge in proposing measures to develop, as an urgent priority, a national strategy plan to improve youth literacy levels, and will continue to prioritise literacy as an issue.
We are also putting forward proposals to ensure that every child should be guaranteed a high-quality preschool place with clear curriculum requirements, appropriate staffing professionals, conducted in an appropriate setting.
For Labour, the protection of families, children and childhood will continue to be a priority, even in these difficult times.