Waters urged to take back foster family claims


SEANAD REPORT:Government whip Paul Coghlan (FG) called on journalist John Waters to make amends before tomorrow’s referendum for comments that were “hugely insulting and offensive to foster families”.

Mr Coghlan said he joined with other members of the House in calling on Mr Waters to withdraw his claim that foster families were motivated by financial gain.

Michael Mullins (FG) said he had always had great respect for Mr Waters until last Monday’s TV Frontline programme. “I think he absolutely lost the plot and certainly did a grave disservice to foster families by what he said. I certainly think he should withdraw his comments. Foster families have given very valuable service to the State and, indeed, to vulnerable children over the years.”

‘Disgraceful slur’

David Norris (Ind) said he had been absolutely horrified by what he had heard on the programme.

The person representing the No side had made a number of utterly false claims including the suggestion that foster families were “in it for the money. That was a disgraceful slur on decent, good citizens who take the responsibility for children who otherwise would have no proper parental influence or home.

“To say that they do it for €350, I demand that that be withdrawn.”

Stressing that there could be no complacency about the outcome of the referendum, Mr Norris said that some other claims made by those opposed to constitutional change amounted to an attempt to create hysteria and to terrify and confuse the populace.

Calling on all Oireachtas members to not send out Christmas cards this year because of the straitened national finances, John Whelan (Lab) said he thought the practice of posting 250,000 cards at taxpayers’ expense thoughtless and vulgar.

Reacting, Terry Leyden (FF) said: “Scrooge is alive and well. It’s a wonder you don’t abolish Christmas the way you are going.”

Mr Whelan asked what was the purpose of sending a card to someone who had already paid for it. If parliamentarians wanted to recognise the goodwill of the season, he would strongly suggest that they buy charity cards. It was wrong to squander taxpayers’ money.

Mr Leyden said it was a matter for individual Oireachtas members to decide whether they wanted to utilise the facilities at their disposal. He would not be intimidated by Mr Whelan’s comments.

John Gilroy (Lab) said he was astounded at the response to his party colleague’s excellent suggestion.

Some progress might be made in relation to the matter if the reformed wing of Fianna Fáil had a chat with its unreformed wing.