Minister for Children Barry Andrews was in the news in mid-December congratulating himself for a job well done in continuing to record the plight of poor Irish children while doing very little for them. By Evin Daly of One Child International
On 31 December Maeve Lewis, CEO of the abuse survivors groups One in Four, took Barry Andrews to task for never delivering on the funding he promised two years ago for counselling services for victims of child sexual abuse. This funding was urgently needed following the publication of the Ryan report which highlighted child abuse in Ireland's industrial schools. The report prompted an overwhelming increase in the demand for help for victims. In promising the funds and by not delivering Andrews demonstrates his impotence of office and the lack of political will to address this issue.
Andrews has had a short and ineffective stint as Minister for Children. His appointment to the job was certainly not for his talent in getting things done. Repeated attempts by One Child International to meet with Andrews throughout 2010 to promote national child protection measures went for the most part unanswered.
Letters of receipt aside, he did send a representative to meet me looking for a hand-out to fund the 116 000 project (116 000 is the European hotline number for missing children). This we offered to do if the government would contribute 25% of the funding. We were told no funding was available.
Over €150 million has been spent recording a slice of the sexual abuse endured by Irish children at the hands of clergy. While the recording of such diabolical activities is important, one must ask if it would have been better to spend, say, €50 million on the reports and €100 million on providing services for the abused and in putting preventative measures in place.
Revealed records from 40 years ago show that the same issues were being discussed then. And what has happened in the meantime? Nothing, except the continuing transfer of wealth from the taxpayer to an elite few who compile these reports. These people are among the same elite who manage Ireland's meaningless tribunals.
Not much is needed to ease the plight of Irish children. It doesn't take a lot of money, although more than less certainly helps. It takes a minister who is not afraid to go among the people and be seen to be doing something – anything – to help the downtrodden. Narrative and sound bite commentary is not what is needed; action and the provision of promised, adequate funding is. It takes a minister who leaves his insecurities behind and takes the lead.
In the coming election one must hope that the Irish electorate will not be lethargic and re-elect the failed politicians of the past. The next four years will be tough no matter who is in power. Historical party affiliation is meaningless; we need effective leaders. History has shown us that politicians are economic cheerleaders taking credit when times are good and scurrying for cover when times are bad. Ireland needs fresh blood.
Andrews exemplifies a failed political administration that hid behind form, formality and deception while pushing Ireland into bankruptcy, burdening it with a near insurmountable debt. A debt created not by a bad economy but by unqualified politicians who oversaw and cheered on the gamblers at the property roulette table who make un-winnable wagers with what ultimately turned out to be your money.
George Orwell's Animal Farm was a supposed satire on the communist regime. On closer examination one finds that it is also a comfortable fit for the current Irish government where the elected hide behind the walls of office enjoying the privilege – and fruits - of position while doing nothing. Proof of this was at the debate in December about the emergency IMF funding where fewer than 15 TDs attended the debate in the Dail. Fifteen out of 164 TDs.
These people are public servants; elected to serve the electorate. Remind them of that in the upcoming election. And while you're at it, ask Barry Andrews why he entered politics to begin with because looking at his record with helping Ireland's children it's impossible to tell.