Seanad debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Children First Bill 2014: Report and Final Stages


10:30 am

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I endorse the amendments. I welcome the Minister. He has always been a great servant of children. The children of Ireland are well served by him. When he was Minister for Health he took steps to ban smoking by adults where children were present in cars. He listened most attentively on Committee Stage to what Members said. I was in his company on that sad occasion last Thursday. Everybody who was at Garda Golden's funeral was moved by the two year-old, three year-old and five year-old children following their father's hearse. We knew the Minister's heart was in the right place. I am delighted he has accepted the amendments.

Present in the Gallery is Dr. Toddy Daly, a son of Dr. Cyril Daly, and Dr. Daly's wife, Aileen. Cyril Daly campaigned for this for many years, a point to which the Minister referred on Committee Stage. His statement on it was that to Cyril Daly the Irish child is a human being with human rights. Children have those rights from today as they are now enforced in legislation.

Like the Minister, I remember John Boland, who as Minister for education in the 1980s introduced the measure on corporal punishment, against substantial opposition. I also mention Owen Skeffington, one of my predecessors as a Trinity Senator. I gather the Daly family has correspondence from Senator Skeffington. I mentioned previously during the debate the famous story that someone said he was beaten in school and it never did him any harm and the Senator's response was "The question is what did do the harm." We have moved away from that approach - Tom Brown's School Days, the fag system and the Victorians with the spare the rod and spoil the child attitude. Since the views of educationalists such as Maria Montessori we now see children are interesting, fascinating, inspiring, stimulating. Why on earth would we want to impose any form of physical punishment on them?

Senator Moloney was deeply moving in her contribution on the previous day's debate. She always is when she speaks in support of Senator van Turnhout on such issues. Senator Leyden said it would be a suitable way to commemorate the centenary of 1916. One of the best suggestions in that regard is that children will be cherished, as in the democratic programme of that Dáil.

This is a significant day for human rights in this country. We were all children once and therefore the rights of everybody are protected by this measure. In its way it is as big a celebration as the one we were celebrating last night in the context of the celebrations in Dublin Castle on 23 May. This one is even bigger when on thinks of the number of people who will benefit in the future from what the Minister is doing here today. I commend the Minister very strongly for making this change and for remembering reading notes in the Irish Medical Timesfrom Dr. Daly, whom he knew personally as a friend. He also knew John Boland as a friend. These friendships do matter. They make us question whose children should be punished and why was that power given to big people to beat small people. We have moved away from all of that now. This is a great day for Seanad Éireann and a great day for the children of this country that this Minister, with the unanimous support of the House, is supporting the amendments.


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