Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children

Child and Infant Mental Health: Discussion

9:30 am

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I join with you, Chairman, in welcoming our panel before us this morning. I might be a little bit provocative in teasing out some of the points made by Professor Nugent. I very much appreciate the thrust of all that has been outlined both by Professor Nugent and Ms Mitchell. However, what strikes me is that it is almost like a fire brigade response. It is a case of focussing where the problem presents, and setting out the responses we need and that we must develop and provide rather than trying to address the problems before they might even present.

I scribbled a note for myself. I cannot speak for other churches as the only one of which I have personal experience is the Catholic Church. It insists on pre-marriage courses. I have no doubt that is verified, but surely pre-parenting courses in whatever setting would be at least of equal importance, and in my opinion of even greater importance. It is not a part of any of the preparation. I speak as a parent of five children. Listening to both speakers and all they have outlined made me think back on what prepared me for the role of becoming a parent. It was almost just a case of it being something that would happen, yet before the church would even permit access it insisted that we would hear its views on how we might cope with the stresses and strains of the compromise of married life. I am not different to anybody else; I am sure becoming a parent has been one of the most challenging, new realities in the life of any young adult.

Professor Nugent said that during the first three years of life children's long term capacity to think, understand and solve problems, etc., are in their most crucial developmental stages. He spoke of "we". As a public representative and parent I am trying to say I am sorry, I just did not know. I thought Deputy Keaveney would touch on the issue when he spoke about the education system, but more than just in terms of the point he made, I do not know of any other structure that will address future parents, the most important role anybody could be entrusted with in life other than through the school system. This is at least as important as any other academic course that might present either in primary, secondary or even third level education. I am trying to tease out the subject with the witnesses to find out if they have a view. Do they think the knowledge that has been imparted to us in the short opportunity both witnesses have had should be made more widespread? That is not happening in the school system. Nobody is saying what we know. Expert opinion must become societal knowledge. There needs to be a critical understanding and awareness. I am not responding specifically to the points that were made; I am trying to look beyond that and to broaden out the platform of responsibility because we need to get to a point where all young children are given the maximum prospect of a fulfilling life.


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