2 November 2000 Edition

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``Make Childcare the priority'' - Ó Caoláin

The entire amount of revenue due from the banks in unpaid DIRT tax should be earmarked for the provision of accessible and affordable childcare services, the Dáil was told by Cavan/Monaghan Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin last week.

The Sinn Féin TD was speaking in a debate on the National Development Plan, in which he concentrated on the need to ensure that children are properly cared for in the context of a growing economy where many growing numbers of people are experiencing great difficulty meeting the demands of family and work. Ó Caoláin said:

``I acknowledge that the National Development Plan is one of the most important and wide-ranging plans ever presented by any Government. It is important to welcome the positive nature of the plan, particularly the commitment to develop those regions and sections of society which continue to be excluded from the prosperity and development enjoyed by others. Debates of this nature are essential to monitor the plan's implementation and must continue throughout its lifetime. We need to see real progress on the implementation of the plan in the key and critical areas of health, education, child care and infrastructural development.

``I will concentrate on one area without which the plan will not succeed. I refer here to childcare and the need for a commitment to make real provision in that regard. Under the heading of ``Equality'' the plan commits £250 million for childcare provision in the regional operational programmes. This is but a fraction of what is needed, both regionally and throughout the country.

``A report published earlier this month showed the extent of need in the North Eastern Health Board area. There are 884 children on waiting lists for the 213

child care providers in that region, comprising Cavan, Louth, Meath and Monaghan. This is only the tip of the iceberg. It represents the need among those who can afford the limited provision available and does not account for the thousands more for whom current provision is beyond their means.

``What value development if children are not properly catered for? We must ensure that children receive the best care, preferably by a parent or guardian on a full-time basis or else, where needed, by qualified people whose service is affordable or accessible.

``In addition to the resources earmarked in the plan and to those announced last week by the Government, a further commitment is needed which will really show the determination of the Administration to prioritise this issue. I hope the Minister of State and the Minister will report to Cabinet that I wish to propose that the full amount of revenue accruing from payment of previously unpaid DIRT by financial institutions be devoted to the provision of child care. That decision would certainly indicate real intent and purpose. I commend this proposal to Government and urge it to make it a central part of the forthcoming budgetary measures.''

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