Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD: Childcare as a Right
Five years ago the Government published a National Childcare Strategy. But because of their total lack of commitment, childcare places are still in short supply and far too expensive. For many, it is like a second mortgage. For others, it is totally out of reach. As long as access to childcare is determined by whether parents can afford to pay for it, there will never be equality in Ireland.
As a father of three and husband of a hard-working woman, I can tell you that childcare is an issue for all parents. But it disproportionately affects women, who are the majority of primary or sole carers of children in Ireland. In fact the National Women's Council has identified the lack of affordable quality childcare as THE SINGLE MOST SIGNIFICANT BARRIER to women's equal participation in all aspects of society. The impact on working class women and lone parents is even greater, as lack of childcare locks them into poverty.
Without childcare, the parent either cannot work, cannot work full-time or cannot obtain the further education or training that would qualify them for better paid work. So women workers get stuck in lower paid low level or part-time positions, often earning less than minimum wage. Thus lack of childcare is the biggest contributor to the ongoing pay gap between men and women. So if you don't have childcare, your income remains low. And if your income remains low, you can't afford childcare, and you're trapped. This is why lone parent families have the highest rate of consistent poverty in Ireland.
So childcare is a litmus for a Government's commitment to social and economic justice. Motion 210 commits Sinn Féin to continue to show leadership on this issue and make childcare a priority. We must demand affordable childcare for all, including universal state provision of pre-school for all children from the ages of 3 to 5, and universal provision of early childhood education and care, modelled on best practice in other countries. Because childcare, available to all as of right, is a necessary precondition for equality in this state.