Church should speak out on children’s welfare – priest

Past failings should not deter the Church from speaking out

Past failings should not deter the Church from speaking out on behalf of children, a Redemptorist priest has said.

Fr Gerry O’Connor, who is chairperson for care services and the school board in St Ultan’s Primary School in Cherry Orchard, Dublin, said a real debate needs to be held to secure investment so that every child in Ireland can have a good start in life.

“This is something that the Church should try and take a lead role in or be a partner with others in advocating this level of investment,” he said. “The Church has had its scandals with the way children were treated in Church institutions and structures in the past, but the Church has now invested significantly in child safeguarding and has yet to become a voice for children.”

Expert group

Fr O’Connor was a member of the Expert Advisory Group established to make recommendations for Ireland’s first-ever ‘Early Years Strategy’. The group’s ‘Right from the Start’ report was launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald last week and makes five proposals: increasing investment, extending paid parental leave, strengthening child and family support, insisting on good governance, accountability and quality in all services, enhancing and extending quality early childhood care and education services.

“We looked at children aged 0-6 years to work out what the needs are to ensure that in the critical early years, children get a good start and the same chances so far as possible so that later in life they flourish,” he told The Irish Catholic. “If you invest in children that young it yields economic savings etc later on.

“I encourage Church leadership to be committed to this blueprint and to get involved in political engagement right from the start so that we can truly transform the lives of children.”