Seanad debates

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Address to Seanad Éireann by Ms Catherine McGuinness


1:10 pm

Photo of Aideen HaydenAideen Hayden (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I welcome Judge McGuinness to the Chamber and all the other organisations which have worked tirelessly to champion children's rights, including my colleague, Senator van Turnhout. Many people have mentioned the various achievements in improving the position of children but we have a long way to go. The publication of the NESC report today setting out that 23% of Irish households are economically inactive and the specific impact on the life chances of children directly relating to poverty and social exclusion, is an issue we need to address as a society. If we are to give real equality to children we have to look at other aspects, for the sake of argument, of the Constitution enshrining economic, social and cultural rights and, in particular, the right to a home. As has been mentioned, we have an unprecedented level of homelessness among families and children, in particular. It goes without saying that the position of direct provision is abhorrent. The position whereby only one parent can be determined to be the primary carer of the child and get sufficient social welfare payment in order to enable him or her to house that child, means that one parent does not have his or her right to parent or the child's right to be parented adequately protected.

I wish to ask a specific question in respect of St. Patrick's Institution. There were numerous reports into St. Patrick's Institution. I was very disturbed when Ms Emily Logan commented that part of the reason that children there were ignored was because they were poor and deemed to be anti-social. I believe we should have a commission of inquiry into what when on in St. Patrick's Institution. I am disturbed that we continue to look at these matters on a case-by-case basis. I believe a permanent commission should be established to examine institutions of the State and county homes and the manner in which they have conducted themselves in respect of children. What is Ms McGuinness's view on the idea of the commission having a permanent mandate of inquiry rather than having issues brought forward on a case-by-case basis?


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