For immediate release 11 February 2016
General Election 2016 candidates grilled by children in special hustings
11 February 2016, Dublin - A group of prospective candidates faced their toughest challenge yet in a school hall full of children and yo]ung people at a special hustings this morning. Hosted by Barnardos, the Children’s Rights Alliance and the ISPCC, candidates from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, Sinn Fein, People Before Profit and the Social Democrats were in attendance.
Grainia Long, CEO, ISPCC, said, “We couldn’t have written questions with more insight, knowledge and passion. The young people asked about homelessness, the environment, discrimination and diversity and healthcare. Not surprisingly, education featured strongly with questions relating to teacher-pupil ratio and the allocation of extra support for children who need it.”
Sarah, aged 11 and a half, from St Enda’s Primary School, kicked off proceedings by asking “How do you and government plan to tackle the serious issue of homelessness in Ireland today?” Interestingly all candidates were at pains to acknowledge to Sarah and an attentive audience that housing was a crisis issue and efforts must be made to support those facing or at risk of homelessness – and especially children who are affected.
Daniella, 11 and a half, also from St Enda’s asked “Would you consider building more hospitals and hiring more staff to ensure that patients on this country receive better care? Because you can see people on those trolleys and not enough beds in the hospitals.” She was followed by Christine who wanted the politicians to discuss how they would approach diversity and tackle inequality. Her question related specifically to the need for electric taxis which would reduce toxic emissions, which particularly interested and intrigued the candidates.
Maria, 15 from St Leo’s College, Carlow, put this to the candidates, “Do you know that about 1 in 5 children in primary school require additional supports? If you or your party is elected will you reverse the cuts to special needs provision in schools, increase the number of Special Needs Assistants, review the DEIS Programme immediately and make it a priority to tackle disadvantage?”
Sammy, 15, rounded off the question by reminding candidates that while they couldn’t yet vote, they were the ones who would be in their place in a few years time – how would they support children and young people to be interested in politics?
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive, Children’s Rights Alliance, concluded by saying, “Children comprise 25% of the population and we have seen today how thoughtful and engaged they are. They know they want their voices to be heard and they know what they want to say. It has put it up to the candidates and our political parties – how are they going to ensure children and young people are heard in schools? In healthcare? In housing?”
Fergus Finlay, CEO, Barnardos,said “More than 40 children and young people took over St Enda’s school hall to focus on things which were important to them. Quite rightly the candidates recognised just how important these issues were and treated their audience – and each other – with due respect. Based on today’s display General Election 2016 candidates should certainly be watching their backs!”
Notes to editors
The children in attendance were 5thand 6thclass pupils from St Enda’s Primary School in Dublin 8 and transition year students from St Leo’s College in Carlow.
Candidates in attendance were:
Fine Gael Cllr Kate O’Connell
Labour Minister Kevin Humphreys
Fianna Fáil Deputy Robert Troy
Sinn Féin Cllr Kathleen Funchion
Social Democrats Cllr Gary Gannon
Anti-Austerity Alliance Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett
For further information, please contact:
Barnardos Press Office: 01 7080442 / 086 0445966
Irene Lawlor; 01 7080423
Rachel Boyce; 01 7080443