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Atlantic Grantees Call Irish Government to Account on Commitment to Children

Resource type: News

The Atlantic Philanthropies |

The issue of whether Ireland needs a referendum to secure children’s rights, has been on the table in the Republic of Ireland for a number of years. Early last week, Atlantic grantee, the Children’s Rights Alliance, called the Irish Government to account with its annual “report card”. Report Card 2009, which is an annual audit of the Government’s own commitments to children, awarded the Government an overall ‘D’ grade, showing that the Government is failing to honour many of its commitments to children.

Health and Education were the lowest scores and in these two areas, the Government received its worst grade – an ‘E’ grade – in two sub-sections, namely Mental Health and Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), for an unacceptable performance that takes steps in the wrong direction, with no positive impact on children.

According to Jill Van Turnhout, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance, “Ireland has good policy commitments to children, but on the whole they are not being honoured. Failing in 50% of its own commitments is unacceptable. Unfortunately, there is a lack of accountability to commitments and, it appears, a lack of concern when commitments are not honoured. Monitoring and evaluation processes are often lacking and there is a failure among Government departments and agencies to work together to achieve common aims.” The Report Card cites as ‘a notable positive exception’ The Prevention and Early Intervention Programme which is co-sponsored by Government and The Atlantic Philanthropies in the communities of Tallaght, Ballymun and Northside.

Just to what extent the system is failing children was brought into stark relief at Roscommon Circuit Court last week, where a 40 year old mother of six jailed for seven years, the maximum penalty the court could lay down, after evidence of devastating neglect, emotional and sexual abuse suffered by her six young children at her hands between 1996 and 2004, when all the children were taken into care.

At the heart of the story of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse is the growing evidence that the Irish authorities did not make sufficient efforts to protect the children. An independent inquiry chaired by Atlantic grantee Barnardos’ Norah Gibbons has been announced, to investigate the events. However, this sad case underlines what childcare experts and Atlantic grantees, such as Barnardos and CRA have been highlighting: the inconsistent quality of childcare services and the failure by the State to protect and nurture children, especially vulnerable children.

Government spending is set to decrease across the board – according to the Government, when it comes to looking at savings “everything is on the table”. Erosion into children’s services had already begun with cuts in the annual budget.

The challenge for Atlantic grantees working in this area in Ireland will be to get the Government to look at its existing commitments to children and discover ways to honour them. In many cases, it is not a question increased funding, but of getting departments to work together and reforming processes and practices. Says Van Turnhout ‘‘People have a responsibility to act,” she said. ‘‘Irish adults need to tick a box saying: ‘Yes, children have rights.’ “

Copy of the full report is available on:



Top: Honourable Justice Catherine McGuinness, (President of the Law Reform Commission)

Bottom: From left: Jillian van Turnhout (CEO, Children’s Rights Alliance), Honourable Justice Catherine McGuinness, (President of the Law Reform Commission); Dr. Nóirin Hayes (Chair, Children’s Rights Alliance) at the launch of the Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2009 in European Union House, Dublin.