Children died in care while 'there was so much partying going on'


DÁIL SKETCH:IT WAS a sombre Opposition Leaders’ Questions yesterday.

There was no heckling from any side of the House, no attempts at political point-scoring as Ireland’s shameful record in its treatment of the young and vulnerable was highlighted.

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary noted that Wednesday’s harrowing report of children in State care detailed the 196 deaths between 2000 and 2010 by “natural and unnatural causes”.

There were those who died in house fires, by way of accidental drowning, road incidents, as well as those who were unlawfully killed and had ended their own lives.

“The report challenges us as a society,” said Calleary.

He recalled how the 1916 Proclamation had stated that the children of the nation should be cherished.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore did not hold back.

Everybody agreed that the report was shocking. “What it describes is a disgrace, the way in which children died while in the care of the State or afterwards,” he added.

Gilmore then expressed what was on the minds of many who had witnessed yet another day of shame in the State’s history.

He said his own reaction, after reading about some of the cases, was that it had all happened at a time of great prosperity.

The period referred to in the report covered a time “when there was so much partying going on, when there was much clapping on the back about how wonderful the country was, how great we were doing and how much more money we had”.

However, said the Tánaiste, during this time children were dying in appalling circumstances.

“In some cases, they were neglected by the State, in some by their families and in others by those charged, either officially or through familial links, with responsibility for them,” he added.

He agreed with Calleary that they needed to work on a non-partisan basis to progress measures to protect children. The referendum on the rights of children would be held in the autumn.

The infamous housing bubble, which fuelled the Celtic Tiger, surfaced when Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett raised the plight of those looking for a place to live.

Ó Snodaigh said there had been a 20 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Dublin. He noted that less than half of the €500 million used to subsidise private landlords was spent on social housing.

Some tenants were engaged in unwinnable negotiations with landlords, causing untold misery and upheaval for families.

He suggested that it would be more cost-effective to invest in the purchase of social housing via Nama or otherwise.

Gilmore said the budget for homelessness had not been cut. He warned private landlords that they would not be allowed exploit the rent allowance system. There were negotiations with Nama to acquire houses for use as social housing, he said.

Boyd Barrett pointed to the public gallery where some of those on the housing lists were watching the proceedings.

Leanne Massey, who had four children, was recently made homeless because of rent allowance cuts, he said. She was now separated from two of her children and sleeping on a sofa in a two-bedroom house with her grandmother and great-grandmother.

He added that it was an “obscenity” that there were 96,000 people on the housing list while there were 230,000 empty dwellings in the State.

Celtic Tiger Ireland was a grim place for some people. Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland is a grim place for even more people.