A 'State of the Nation's Children' report was published this week in Ireland highlighting the plight of neglected Irish children; a plight which has become incrementally worse since 2006.
Outgoing Minister for Children Barry Andrews smugly patted himself on the back for a job well done at a press conference on Wednesday, accompanied by his researchers. Ignoring the elephant in the sitting room, he expressed 'regrets not doing more to tackle childhood obesity during his term in office.' Obesity?
His response typifies the malaise of intellectualizing a problem that in reality is in desperate need of hands-on, quantifiable, action, something Andrews is incapable of.
The report - cost unknown - 'shows an increase in abuse, poverty and numbers waiting for social housing. Traveler children, immigrant children and children with a disability or chronic illness fare less well than the general population of children across a range of markers.' Does Mr. Barry regret not doing anything for these children too? Apparently not.
The question must be then asked - why not? Why Minister Andrews as your term comes to a close, along with your foreseeable political career, does this report not reflect accomplishments as opposed to continuing problems for children? This report highlights signs of inept management by an inept manager.
Ireland is a country of limited population (4.5m - marginally larger than LA or 60% that of London), geography and thus those in need are all within a couple of hours travel from Dublin. There are children this Christmas who would have been better served with tangible assistance rather than being recorded (again) as a mere statistic in a report.
Minister Andrews may have been good teacher but he has been an ineffective Minister for Children. During his term of office he was not beyond asking for a hand-out when the opportunity arose as our charity - One Child International ( www.abusewatch.eu ) - found out earlier this year when his rep asked us to underwrite the child help line 116 000 project.
Despite myriad reports exposing child abuse over the past two years, no programs exist to combat it. Attempts to provide the corner stone of a child protection policy were ignored not once, but numerous times over 12 months. That corner stone was the simple proposal - by One Child International - to provide child abuse prevention and child protection information to the parents and caregivers of Ireland. Without this simple program any child protection policy is being built on sand.
The cost of researching a portion of the child sexual abuse debacle has cost the Irish taxpayer - parents among them - over 150 million Euro. By comparison the cost of providing the entire country with child protection information is estimated at one Euro per family. One can only hope that the next Minister for Children takes their responsibility to their charges more seriously than Andrews has and sees the position as an opportunity to help children as opposed to adding another line to their CV's.
It is not difficult to help Ireland's children. What it takes is a shirt-sleeves effort to do so. It needs a Minister who is willing to get out among the people to see the reality of what poor children's needs are and implement what has to be done to rectify these problems.
In life Minister Andrews there are talkers and doers.
The talkers wrap themselves in the privilege of office and wear it proudly as though they were entitled to it and its trappings. They seemingly ignore their responsibilities.
Office does not make the man. Action is what men are made of; of immersing themselves personally in their mission. Of walking away knowing that they are leaving behind a legacy of a job well done.
Perhaps Mr. Andrews will go back to teaching after his ministerial stint. They say that those who can do; those who can't, teach. For the sake of Ireland's children, roll on election 2011.
Evin Daly is the CEO of One Child International and a contributing writer to the ButlerReport.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org