Launch of Cherishing Children
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This government has withdrawn funding for school books, has reduced investment in playgrounds and has deemed building footpaths an optional investment.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.