Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Reappointment of the Ombudsman for Children: Motion
A fellow Donegal man, Dr. Niall Muldoon, was appointed as our second ever Ombudsman for Children in February 2015. I absolutely support the motion that Dr. Muldoon be reappointed for another term.
Dr. Muldoon has been Ombudsman for Children while we have been experiencing a catastrophic failure in housing policy that has made thousands of children homeless. We have had countless reports and reviews on the issue. The only problem I have with the Office of the Ombudsman for Children is that it does not have the teeth to take action against the Government. It must be tough to receive complaints and heart-breaking stories to report to the Government but to have one's recommendations ignored.
Ireland signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. These rights need to be put on a legislative footing. This major systematic change is required to make a difference. It is what the children around Ireland need.
An urgent need now relates to children with disabilities. We know that there have been major delays in assessment of needs and appropriate supports for families over the years. Now, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed greater failings of the State. The closure of schools, including schools for children with additional needs, during the pandemic meant that many children with additional needs regressed without their structures, routines or required attention. This has even led to children with additional needs being expelled from schools designed specifically to meet their needs.
When the schools reopened during the Covid lull, high numbers of children were left without schools to attend. Children with additional needs have a constitutional right to education that is being taken away by the State's failure to provide appropriate supports to schools, teachers, assistants and their families. This is vitally important. As I have said, the Government should be legally held to account by the ombudsman. The Government should reappoint Dr. Muldoon and give him and his team the power to ensure that their recommendations are implemented for the sake of the wains.