Thursday, 19 June 2014
Address to Seanad Éireann by Ms Catherine McGuinness
I welcome Judge McGuinness. It is an honour to have her in the House. I have three comments and-or questions. With Senator van Turnhout, I attended a very interesting talk by Alcohol Action Ireland. It is very educational and was about using children's rights as a rugby ball. Senator Feargal Quinn asked how we could visualise a better Ireland for Ireland in 2020. I was shocked as I think everyone was. We all know how wonderful rugby or some of the other sporting events or the summer festivals of music have become to which one can take one's children or grandchildren. I will take rugby for the moment where daddies and mammies bring their little sons all dressed up in their Heineken jersey and the entire beautiful stadium is dressed up in the colours of the sponsor, the wonderful green of whatever particular brand of alcohol. It is not I that is affected or my 28 year old but the little child at that match is the one who is ingrained sublimely into their psychic. It is wonderful to have a glass of wine with supper but this country and its culture is in real trouble and we are damaging the future lives and health of our children by allowing sport to be sponsored futuristically by alcohol.
Following on from Senator Feargal Quinn, surely it is the right of our children to have a proper, modern children's hospital. This is another political football. We have listened to the experts for almost 20 years on the issue. I could make a long speech on the rights and wrongs of St. James's but it is also becoming a nightmare and an 18-month delay is already coming upon us.
I wish to raise an issue which is important to me and the Jack & Jill Foundation babies. The United Nations report on children recommended that children should be granted free medical care - I am speaking about gravely ill children - regardless of whether their mummy or daddy or adoptive parents have jobs. It is the right of gravely-ill children to be treated as citizens and given medical cards. This issue has been a political football in the Oireachtas for the past year. We have to wait a year until the expert committee has completed its report. Discretionary cards are allowed for children. If a child is born in the next month with a gravely ill condition or is palliative, those parents have to fill out forms and go through the stress of trying to get a medical card for that child. I want those children to have the right to immediate and free medical care.