Monthly Archive for November, 2015

Time to End Religious Discrimination in Access to Schools

The issue of access to schools for children from minority faiths or of no faith at all, is one that is growing across Dublin West. Currently, section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act, 2000, allows primary and secondary schools with a religious ethos discriminate in granting admission to their school.

As we know, the vast majority of primary schools in the country are still under the patronage of the Catholic Church. This becomes a major issue for parents who aren’t of the Catholic faith, or indeed, children who aren’t baptised at all.

The Green Party are proposing to amend the legislation to remove the ability of publically funded schools to deny a child entry solely on the basis of religion. Such a change has also been recommended by the Human Rights and Equality Commission.

While schools will still be allowed follow their own ethos, no child should be marginalised in Ireland due to their faith or absence of faith.

Childcare in Ireland – We need to do so much better

Stats on the comparative cost of childcare in Ireland for single parent family (Source: Start Strong)

Stats on the comparative cost of childcare in Ireland for single parent family (Source: Start Strong)

If I’m elected to the Dail in the General Election next year, a key priority for me will be working to achieve much greater public investment in early childhood care and education. This money should be spent on introducing paid parental leave, subsidizing approved childcare facilities and providing afterschool facilities for primarily school pupils.

On Saturday, I held a public meeting on the issue. The meeting was addressed by childcare experts from Start Strong and Early Childhood Ireland.

The statistics they outlined are genuinely shocking. When it comes to childcare costs, Irish families bear a massively disproportionate share compared to other countries. For example, in Ireland, lone parent families spend 40% of their net income on childcare. This compares to an EU average of 12%.

When it comes to paid leave for mothers, the figures are equally poor. Ireland supplies 6 ½ months paid leave (26 weeks maternity leave). Across the EU, this compares with an average 18 months. Some EU states, such as Finland and Poland, provide up to 36 months. The fact is that, in that all important year following a child’s birth, the Irish State provides inadequate support to families if they wish for either parent to be the full time carer for their child during this period.

Stats on the length of paid maternity leave across Europe (Source: Start Strong)

Stats on the length of paid maternity leave across Europe (Source: Start Strong)

The impact of the lack of supports for parents were clearly seen from the responses to the online survey I have been conducting over the last five weeks (link to full results below). 60% of the respondents said that that they felt that lack of access to affordable childcare impacted upon their career prospects. 60% also stated that access to childcare affected their decision on whether to have more children.

Ireland currently only spends .1% of GDP on early childhood care and education, as opposed to an OECD average of .8%. I believe we need to raise the level of State investment in this area to extend paid parental leave and to provide subsidies for parents sending their children to recognised crèches or childminders.

Childcare Survey – O’Gorman

New Social Housing in Dublin 15

Some of the new social houses at Rossan Court, Waterville, D15

Some of the new social houses at Rossan Court, Waterville, D15

On Friday, I had the opportunity to inspect the new house bought by Fingal County Council for use as social housing at the Rossan Court development in Waterville. The development consists of 44 homes – 31 three-bed and 13 four-bed houses. The houses are of extremely high standard and all are provided with gardens to the rear.

 

While I was there, a number of families who are being offered these homes were getting their first look at them. Many of these families have been on the housing list for many years or have been homeless for a substantial period. There was a real sense of joy as the new tenants saw where they will soon be living.

Public Meeting: Meeting our Childcare Needs (Saturday, 21st Nov)

I’m holding a public meeting on childcare this Saturday 21st November in the Castleknock Hotel, commencing at 11:00am.

The meeting will feature two key speakers: Emma Reilly from Early Childhood Ireland and Toby Wolfe from Start Strong.

I will also be discussing the results from the online survey on childcare needs that I have been conducting over the last four weeks.

I hope to use the meeting to get further public feedback on what we need to do to fix our childcare system. I plan to use these discussions to shape my own proposals on how the law in this area can be improved.

Hope to see you there on the day.

Dangerous junction at Ashtown Gate

The safety situation at the Ashtown Gate entrance to the Phoenix Park is a major concern for many residents in the Ashtown/Blackhorse Avenue area. I and other Fingal councillors have regularly raised this issue with Council officials. The response to my most recent question is attached below.

I’ve been consistently been surprised that the Council officials do not see the risk that arises from the current situation. I’ve observed the junction myself and a number of occasions, and it is extremely dangerous for motorists and cyclists. Further, the lack of pedestrian crossings in the area between the Ashtown Gate and the Ashtown Roundabout makes it unsafe for anyone on foot in the area.

I’m currently looking to re-establish a committee between Fingal councillors from the Castleknock/Blanchardstown area and Dublin City councillors from the Ashtown/Cabra area so we can take a more coordinated approach to progressing this and other cross-boundary issues with our Council officials and the Office of Public Works.

Response to my question on Ashtown Gate