Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Children First Bill 2014: Report and Final Stages
I welcome the Minister and his senior staff to the Chamber today. I congratulate Senator van Turnhout on this amendment which I fully support instinctively as a parent and grandparent myself. Without the support of the Minister, this would not have been possible. I admire the work and research the Senator has put into it. As deputy leader of the Irish delegation to the Council of Europe, I am especially pleased to be associated with it because it would have been to the forefront of the council’s agenda.
Giving leadership to our neighbouring countries is an interesting development.On foot of the work done by Senator van Turnhout and in light of the support she received, the fact that it is permitted in those jurisdictions will put pressure on their legislatures to consider the situation. What is happening here certainly proves a point. If there were no Seanad, this amendment would not have been included because nobody in the Lower House sought to move it. No Deputy decided to pursue it in the manner in which Senator van Turnhout has done. Had this House been abolished, the amendment would never have been moved. There would have been no amendment and the current position would have continued to obtain. The latter is a worthwhile point and the people recognised. The Minister is following in the footsteps of his late colleague from north Dublin, John Boland, who brought about the abolition of corporal punishment in schools. This was a major innovation, particularly as all Members, including the Minister, will recall being in school and the fear and terror we experienced. I attended a Christian Brothers school and I have a great deal of respect for that order. I will never attack the Christian Brothers because they gave me a good start in life. I refer, in particular, to Brother O'Dwyer, who gave me great support at school and who I have always regarded highly. Nevertheless, the Christian Brothers had leather straps made which allowed members of the order to inflict maximum torture on pupils. I recall the fear of getting "six of the best", as it was called, and seeing teachers standing on their tiptoes in order to inflict the maximum pain. That has stayed in my memory. This fear was not just for myself because I was not punished that much although, like every child in the class, I was given six of the best at some stage. I wish to recognise the name of John Boland in the Chamber today. Mr. Boland was a former colleague of the Minister in north Dublin and I presume he knew him well. John Boland was the Minister who brought about the abolition of corporal punishment at a time when there was a lot of resistance to the proposal. Looking back, was it not right that it was abolished?