‘Playing God’ in picking pupils for therapy services

The majority of children in a primary school in Moyross could benefit from Blue Box’s therapy service

A primary school principal in Moyross says he is forced to "play God" in deciding which of his pupils are in greatest need of the Blue Box therapy services, due to the lack of funding.

While Tiernan O'Neill feels fortunate that the Blue Box team come into Corpus Christi Primary School one day a week, the need is there to have them in every day.

“On a yearly basis we have to choose one child over another,” he says, despite the fact that the majority of the 240 children there, including those in its preschool, have huge needs.

In the absence of any mainstream central Government funding for therapeutic intervention, the school has to rely on the non-profit organisation Blue Box to try to bridge that gap.


The State attitude is “as if the children can park their emotional and psychological baggage at the gate as they come in and engage with the curriculum, and that is not how it works”, he says.

Corpus Christi is the only school in Moyross, “an area that is synonymous with educational underachievement”, he acknowledges.

It is one of a number of “relatively small pockets” of Limerick, a city with a population of just under 100,000, where social and economic problems have escalated over the past three decades.

It is a "shocking indictment of the State authorities; a complete abdication of responsibility", he says, and refers to one finding of the How Are Our Kids? research, led by Dr Eileen Humphreys and Prof Des McCafferty, which sums up the situation.

The 2011 study found that 33 per cent of children in Limerick’s southside regeneration area and 29 per cent in the northside regeneration area, which includes Moyross, are in the abnormal range for “total difficulties” (covering emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity and peer problems).

Corresponding figures for children nationally and in the US are 7 per cent and 7.4 per cent respectively.

“To think an organisation such as Blue Box, which provides such phenomenal interventions, is constantly swimming against the tide for funding,” he says.

Its remarkable work is enabling troubled children to engage with the education system, he says; without this service, there would be many more children, already in crisis, who would see no way out.

O’Neill is also full of praise for the parent-and-child music therapy programme that Blue Box has been developing in the Corpus Christi preschool.

It’s “absolutely phenomenal: really positive stuff, supporting the parent and the child”.

Referring to the old proverb that it takes a village to raise a child, he adds that here the school, the parents, Blue Box and the children themselves are “working together to maximise life outcome for these kids”.