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Sinn Féin calls for national 'literacy crusade' - Doherty

25 October, 2007

Speaking from the Seanad last night Sinn Fein Donegal Senator called on the Fianna Fáil led government to stop congratulating themselves on their aspirations regarding lifelong learning, and to instead act on them.  


Senator Doherty said:


“There are no longer ‘jobs for life’. With rapidly changing skills and employment, it is imperative that our workforce be constantly retrained and up-skilled. Education and training have to be a lifelong process to ensure full employment.


“The facts however are quite depressing. About 500,000 Irish adults have problems with basic reading and maths. One in four Irish adults have problems with everyday literacy tasks such as reading instructions on a medicine bottle.


“The government’s response has been lack lustre to say the least, announcing only 7,000 extra literacy places in Towards 2016. This target is unmotivated and merely scratches the surface, as they are already starting from a very low base. Sinn Féin proposes a national ‘literacy crusade’ with specific target dates for the incremental eradication of illiteracy.


“Sinn Féin also supports the call for paid educational and learning leave. All countries in the EU 15 have paid educational leave as a statutory entitlement, this state does not, it is left at the discretion of employers.


“It has been estimated by the ESRI that any downturn in our economy would have disastrous results for the estimated 400,000 plus adults in our workforce in low wage marginal jobs who are unskilled. Educational uptake by adults is significantly lower in Ireland than in other EU countries, with a rate of only 8 per cent compared to over 25 per cent in Scandinavian countries.


“Sinn Féin believes that it is the responsibility of the Government to proactively plan for possible future developments in the economy, including specifically planning for the future of the workers. The collapse of the textile industry in Donegal, resulting in a haemorrhaging of job losses, is an indictment of the Government’s failure. Their primary failure was to ensure that the workforce was retrained in advance of the jobs going, which was an accepted eventuality.


“Employment in Donegal is at present heavily reliant on the construction and the low paid service sector. With the inevitable contraction of the construction economy, these workers are most vulnerable to becoming unemployed unless they are trained and upskilled. Donegal already has to contend with the highest rate of unemployment in the 26 Counties, standing at approximately 18 per cent. Sinn Féin is very clear on our priorities to protect against unemployment, we need to eradicate illiteracy, introduce paid educational leave as a statutory entitlement and make work-based learning and training available to all workers.” CRÍOCH

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