Labour Party politician, Aodhan O Riordain Photo by: Google Images

Irish politician says modern Ireland is far from what Republic signatories envisioned


Labour Party politician, Aodhan O Riordain Photo by: Google Images

Irish Labour party minister Aodhan O'Riordan told a prominent summer school audience this week that the modern Republic envisioned by the signatories was based on equality, equal franchise, respect for minorities, religious and civil liberty.

'But once a certain level of freedom was achieved, the post-colonial hang-up kicked in when searching for a new master, and the Catholic Church was only too willing to step up to the plate,' he said.

Irish education and health systems became elitist, segregating pupils on the basis of wealth and background, he said.

'Rather than a republican ideal of being educated together, education and schooling remains one of the most socially divisive elements in Irish society.'

'It is hardly controversial to say that in Ireland we also believe that healthcare can be bought and sold, that those with means deserve quicker and better treatment than poorer people.'

According to the Journal, O'Riordan claimed the core problem is that Irish democratic institutions reflect the very people who are empowered by separation and segregation.

'Education is the key to equality,' he told the audience at the MacGill Summer School in Donegal. 'We have neglected the needs of poorer children, we have ignored the research that pinpoints best practice, and historically we have not invested where it matters.'

'My view is that politics has to move beyond the soundbite model of political discourse that is media friendly but has no depth. We must not be afraid of political ideology, but ideology that is rooted in positivity and practicality.'

The Republic needs a new proclamation, he suggested. 'Perhaps we need a new proclamation' and the Republic now needs to 'restate its values and goals and treat the electorate with respect.'

'We do not have a State educated system, we have a State funded system,' he said, adding that the government has 'neglected the needs of poorer children.'

He said that what the Irish government spend on early childhood education, at 1.5 per cent of the overall education budget, is more than nine times lower than in countries like Hungary.

'Every international study compiled anywhere by anyone worth listening to has pointed to a longterm economic return from such an investment,' O'Riordan said.

The minister also criticized schools that are 'manipulating their enrolment rules to make sure they remain as white and as middle-class as possible.'

Irish politicians neglect poorer communities and young people because they know the voting numbers in these groups are low, O'Riordan claimed. Adding that judging by our prison intake, 'the greatest crime in Irish society' is poverty.

Some critics have angrily claimed that O'Riordan's criticisms ring hollow, since he has voted with the government on austerity measures and reportedly voted to cut funding to already hard pressed DEIS (Delivering Equaility of Opportunity in Schools) programs in 2011.


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