Fianna Fáil Senator Erin McGreehan wants to amend the constitution as part of a move towards gender equality in Ireland, while also stating that the failure to resolve issues in the childcare sector is hampering women’s ability to have an impact in the workplace.
The new Senator made her comments on Wednesday and she invited the Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman to the Seanad to outline his plans to resolve the crisis – with parents across the country left in limbo due to the limited childcare options available to them.
Senator McGreehan, herself a mother of four young children, said; “Mothers of young children are having to leave employment as they cannot find childcare. It really is a huge issue that is going to get worse. There are not enough childcare spaces to get this economy back up and running with the inclusion of women.
“The crisis in childcare is not only hurting children and their development, it is restricting women in the workplace. We have done much for gender equality in this country, but far more is needed.”
According to the Federation of Early Childhood Providers, over 150 childcare providers have been forced to close in the last six weeks as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In one 24-hour period earlier this month, 13 creches and montessories shut down. In Togher, Scallways Creche has controversially closed it’s doors – leading to a Gardai investigation and corporate governance questions.
Families are now left “in the lurch” as the 150 providers have been forced to close in the last six weeks as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said the sector needs more funding – but couldn’t say how much will be available in the Government’s July stimulus package.
The north-Louth based representative added that a wider conversation needed to take place regarding the role of women in society.
“I believe we also need to have a conversation on the role of women in the Constitution – In particular, Article 41.2. Until this aspect of our constitution and that ‘her life within the home’ is changed we will never as a State move towards true gender equality.
Article 41.2 of the Constitution currently states: “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.
“The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”
There have been calls from many different stakeholders over the years for that article to be deleted. Additionally, Senator McGreehan wants Minister O’Gorman to answer questions that remain about the protocols surrounding a return to primary and secondary schools in September.
“There is the uncertainty for parents as we approach August and September and the return of schools. How will this look? What protocols will be in place? And how many days per week will students return for?
“There is still much uncertainty for children and their parents. I look forward to debating with the Minister for Children in the coming days and weeks.”