Time for Government to take care seriously



It couldn’t be clearer, the Government and every opposition party with the exception of Aontu who wanted Yeses to the two Referendums have suffered a resounding defeat. The people have spoken, or rather the overwhelming majority of those who voted not be saddled with the so-called Family and Care amendments.

The rest of the electorate – 56% – either were  not interested or were too confused to go to the polls. It wasn’t a marginal result or a muddled one with Yes No or No Yes results, but rather a decisive rejection. There will have been many reasons why people said No, but I am not sure that politicians got the message.

Their two main limp excuses for the result were that they had “misread the mood of the people” or that they hadn’t done enough to convince us. I think both are rubbish. For one thing, a majority could see that the amendments were not fit to do what they said on the tin; for another, they were annoyed at being patronised, having their intelligence underestimated and being told effectively to vote as you are told.

The proposed amendments needed to be better drafted, the consequences needed to be clear and should, I believe, have followed meaningful legislation to give them effect if they were not to be empty promises.

The proposals were confusing to say the least. For instance, how can there be an undertaking to guard the institution of marriage and protect it against attack while at the same time giving the equal recognition to other kinds of ‘durable’ or should that read ‘endurable’ relationships?

Sometimes minsters came across like dodgy salespeople flogging a supposedly great product while withholding the small print. Among the things that were promised was that the proposal would cover excluded unmarried mothers. But just how ere unmarried mothers to establish this, on a case by case basis in court and by proving that they weren’t living with someone else but raising their children solo?

If the Government are to repair the damage before the General Election they need to have a conversation about what people really want and above all they need to take care seriously. It’s said that a nation can be judged on the way it takes care of children and the weakest members of society. The Care amendment was defeated by a record 74% which should tell the Government something.

There are running sores around care in this country which the Government leave weeping. These could be dealt with by devoting more resources to them, being prepared to sack ineffective ministers or management – some could even be resolved in a matter of hours.

The State has a duty of care towards asylum seekers. What kind of lunatic decision-makers leave these vulnerable people in tents in artic weather without even the dignity of having portaloos. Meantime, there are hundreds of beds intended for Ukrainian refugees vacant, I know it’s complicated but someone needs to kick ass and sort it.

How can the powers-that-be be taken seriously about care when children with special needs wait years for attention, when carers of severely disabled children are at their wits end for respite and support and children with agonising conditions wait endlessly for surgery. How about the ongoing overcrowding crisis in Limerick hospital which is endangering patients’ lives, surely that needs to be treated and solved as an emergency. The concept of care should not be limited to families only.

Article 41.2.1 and 2 does recognise the contribution of mothers and promise support which has not been forthcoming. Why not honour that promise and provide support for parents caring for children at home and better subvention for childcare outside it? According to one survey, a majority of mothers would prefer to be at home minding their small children rather than having to work.

There won’t be another referendum in the life of this Government and the one that we were offered simply wasn’t good enough. But instead of playing the blame game the coalition partners should see this as an opportunity; they have been sent a clear message from voters about the need for better care measures and respect for marriage.

Let’s hope that the political parties learn more from this than they would have from a spineless Yes vote. They need to start having meaningful conversations with stakeholders and take urgent action where it’s needed are the kind of things that get votes.

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