If Ireland were to be judged by how it treats its children I feel we would be found sadly lacking, on our past performance but also on our present. As a country we have failed our children repeatedly. We have failed to listen to them and we have failed to provide for them. Over a year ago all were horrified to hear of the abuse and mistreatment of children as published in the Ryan report. It was followed by the Murphy report, and again there was public outrage. We were aghast that children could have been so poorly treated, neglected and abused in a country whose own proclamation of independence talks of ‘cherishing all children equally’. We found it incredible that no-one listened to these children; that their voices were never heard and indeed were stifled. We took to the streets to mark our objections publically. And yet more than one year on from the Ryan report, we are still not listening to children. We are still not caring for them and we are still not protecting the most vulnerable in our society. In 2008, more than 65,200 children in Ireland were living in poverty. Since then, the impact of recession, and the resulting spending cuts, means that
the lives of many of these children have gone from bad to worse. Tonight in Ireland, thousands of children will go to bed hungry,
scared, abused. Why? Because they have been born into a life that will dictate their future. They have no choice. There is no-one there for these children. No-one is listening. The institutions of the State, whose role is to protect these children, are so overburdened and under-resourced that they can only fail them. Why are we allowing the same mistakes to be repeated yet again? When we marched in the streets for the lost childhoods of the past, did we not know that every day in Ireland thousands of children are suffering the same neglect, abuse, vulnerability as before? The children who are born into areas of neglect and deprivation; the children of families for whom poverty is a millstone around their neck, dragging them down year on year, generation after generation. These are the children who do not have a voice in Ireland today. Sometimes Barnardos’ door is the
only one that remains open to them. The team in Barnardos led by Fergus Finlay, has worked hard to ensure that we can keep the doors of our projects open in the face of rising difficulties. Helping children and families step through those doors into a brighter future is our mission - the reason we exist. We refuse to let them down. We listen, we help, we support. We work with the children and families to break the cycle of poverty and to create new futures. We work to ensure that each child is cherished
equally and that children have a voice in this country. A voice that is not just heard, but listened to and not only by us, but on a statutory level. Barnardos continues to campaign for a constitutional referendum to ensure that children are recognised and listened to. We hope this year that we will see a date set for that referendum and that Ireland can take a real step to becoming the best place in the world to be a child.
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