Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017: From the Seanad
I welcome the passing of this important Bill and I commend the Social Democrats on bringing it forward two years ago. I acknowledge, as Deputy Shortall has fairly done, the role played by Senator Ardagh of Fianna Fáíl, along with other Senators, in pushing it through the Seanad. I also commend the Government, and the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, on the work that has been done. The Minister of State has facilitated the Bill's smooth passage through this House and the Seanad. Much is said about new politics and how it has its limitations, which are unquestionable - I will not go into that now - but it also has its advantages and strengths. For example, in a situation where the Government does not have a majority, Members from different political parties, Government and Opposition, are obliged to engage with each other in order to try to ensure that legislation of public benefit can be enacted. That is what has happened in this instance. There was no desire on the part of the Government to block legislation coming from a source other than itself. There was no desire on the part of Fianna Fáil to be proprietorial or to claim that it should not be supported because it was a Social Democrats policy. The same applies to all other parties in this House. It was recognised that this was a very important piece of legislation which would have significant consequences for parents in Ireland. When it is enacted and its effects are felt, parents will certainly feel the benefit.
The Minister of State and the Government, and indeed all parties in the House, were concerned about the impact it may have had upon employers if there was to be an immediate significant alternation of the provisions. It is important that employers are brought along with this legislation. We do not want to be in a situation where employers do not recognise that this can be of benefit to them as well. As Deputy Shortall stated, work is an essential part of people's lives. However, there comes a time when it may become too dominant. There is no more precious or privileged opportunity a person can have than to bring a child into the world. It is important that we avail of that time, that we enjoy it, and that parents are given the chance to spend time with their children in their early years. Anyone with a child will know that the childhood years pass very quickly. They are precious times, and we should ensure that both parents can spend time with the child in what is an incredibly important formative time.
I commend everyone in the House on the work done in respect of this Bill. That work illustrates the fact that we can work on new politics and that it has its benefits when we work together on issues. I hope there is a recognition in years to come that work is not everything, that there are more precious things in life. Spending time with one's children is one of the more precious and privileged things we can all do. Deputy Michael McGrath, who has more children than many of us, will be able to speak in full detail about how he will be able to enjoy his time.