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Labour to demand a fair start for every child

6 February 2019

Statement by Sean Sherlock TD
Spokesperson on Justice, Children and Youth Affairs

To mark the centenary of the 1st Dáil and the Democratic Programme, a motion will be debated today in Labour Party Private Members Time calling for a fair start for every child.

Recognising and emphasising that Government's first duty is to the child, the motion proposes and demands policy commitments, and the swift implementation of what is needed to fulfill the pledge made 100 years ago.

Commenting in advance of the debate, Labour spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Sean Sherlock said:

"Labour’s motion on 'A Fair Start for Every Child' explains in real terms what is now needed for Government to fulfill its duty to children. This includes Labour's call to:

  • End homelessness for families with children,
  • Give citizenship for all children born and raised in Ireland,
  • Commit to provide information about birth parents to adopted children,
  • Legislate for equal parenting rights for same-sex couples,
  • Deliver affordable quality childcare for all,
  • Ensure the prompt assessment of any special needs and provision of support services,
  • Provide genuinely free-of-charge primary education.

"The Democratic Programme clearly states the 'first duty' to the child, so that is why in Labour's 2019 restatement of those values, we reiterate the Governments commitment to provide for the wellbeing, education and development of the children, regardless of origins, and to give them all an equal chance to fulfil their potential. But that commitment is not being kept by the current administration.

"Nearly three years into this Fine Gael Independent government, it has failed to deliver on so many laudable commitments it has made as it becomes waylaid by Brexit, and scandals of it's own making.

"That is why Labour is taking this opportunity now to state clearly what our agenda will be to ensure a fair start for every child. We are asking the Government to prepare and implement a comprehensive strategy to eliminate consistent child poverty and material deprivation, with clear timeframes for its implementation; and then report to the Dáil no less than quarterly upon the implementation of this strategy and in particular to report on current numbers of children in consistent poverty or deprivation.”

ENDS

Dáil Motion in Full:

“That Dáil Éireann, in this the Centenary Year of its first meeting, re-committing itself to the imperative of the Democratic Programme and the principles of justice and equality, to support the development of all children, and in order to ensure a fair start for every child:

declares that:

— it is the first duty of Government to provide for the wellbeing, education and development of children, regardless of their origins, and to provide them all with an equal opportunity to contribute, to the extent of their abilities, to the economic, social and cultural life of the nation;

— the accommodation of homeless families with children must be the immediate and urgent priority of housing policy;

— all children born and raised in Ireland should be entitled to Irish citizenship, regardless of the nationality or migration status of their parents;

— all children who are adopted should have access to information about their birth parents;

— same-sex couples who are parents should have equal parenting rights to those afforded to opposite-sex couples;

— the Government should ensure that quality childcare is genuinely available to all and is affordable;

— all children should be entitled to a prompt assessment of any special needs and the provision of whatever support services they may need; and

— the Government should ensure that primary education is genuinely free-of-charge, including through public funding of the cost of school books and uniforms and by outlawing mandatory contributions by parents to national schools;

and calls on the Government to:

— immediately implement actions to ensure no children remain in homelessness;

— immediately implement the Affordable Childcare Scheme announced in Budget 2019;

— immediately implement its commitment to providing free-of-charge general practitioner care to all children under the age of 18;

— prepare and implement a comprehensive strategy to eliminate consistent child poverty and material deprivation, with clear timeframes for its implementation; and

— report to the Dáil no less than quarterly upon the implementation of this strategy and in particular to report on current numbers of children in consistent poverty or deprivation.”

— Joan Burton, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Jan O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Brendan Ryan, Sean Sherlock.

[31 January, 2019]