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President says children’s wellbeing a major priority

Resource type: News

The Irish Times |

by CARL O’BRIEN IRELAND HAS yet to realise the ambition of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence which pledged to cherish the children of the nation equally, President Mary McAleese said yesterday. Speaking at Tomorrow’s Children, a conference organised by Barnardos, she said that the well-being of young people must continue to be a major priority for society, whatever the economic circumstances. Leaving vulnerable families to “sink or swim” would mean that the same problems would keep occurring, from one generation to the next. “In these tougher economic times, we look to our strengths and to resources which, harnessed well, have the capacity to bring our children safely through to adulthood,” the President said. “Every hour of volunteering – whether in a youth or sports club, or babysitting to let parents have an hour to go to a parenting class – these things bring care, compassion, altruism and hope into everyday lives where those things might otherwise be absent. “Every hour of professional involvement in childcare brings expertise, wisdom, experience and guidance into those same lives.” She said the “faces of failure” society was familiar with were children who deserved better but did get the support they needed. “Today, as often angry adults looking back at the landscape of wasted chances that ate up their lives, they challenge us to dig more deeply, see more clearly into this amazing space we call childhood and to understand it as the garden in which the seeds of adulthood are planted. What we sow we will reap,” the President said. What happens in the homes, in the schools and on the streets to children today has the capacity to make or break their future lives, she added. Their vulnerability obliged society to ensure they had the opportunity to develop and contribute their unique abilities to their country and to the world. “The 1916 Proclamation of Independence put it very poetically when it set us an agenda as a republic of equals where the children of the nation would be cherished equally,” she said. “That ambition has not shifted nor, despite huge effort especially in recent years, has it yet been fully realised. Perhaps with your help we will advance the journey another important step or two. “A lot of children depend on us to get things right for them. Though they do not yet know it, they need champions and advocates, they need each one of you who has committed to this vocation of care for the young.” She added that each child was precious to the nation and that society suffers when a child does not reach their potential. “Each child has his or her own set of gifts, gifts to enhance his or her own life, gifts to be put at the service of family, community, country. Where those gifts go to waste or are used to make life miserable, we all lose and we all pay a price, but the individual pays the greatest price,” the President said. “They are vulnerable to so many things over which they have no control but which will impact emphatically on their chances and on their very humanity – from poverty to poorly skilled parents, from economic instability to global warming, so much of the futures they long for and look forward to as innocent children do, are already well and truly mortgaged.”

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