How do we fix our childcare system?




Well folks, I hate to toot my own horn, but I think I called it correctly last week when I wrote that the country’s child protection watchdog was – and I said allegedly – unable to immediately close down high-risk childcare facilities, and this week they’ve come out and confirmed that very fact. Yes, following the fall-out of RTE’s documentary regarding the disquieting goings-on at the Hyde and Seek chain of crèches, not only has Tusla identified what it deems to be a string of ‘critical’ risk levels of non-compliances occurring in 37 crèches across the country, it has also confirmed its own toothless tiger status. In addition, the Child and Family Agency is refusing to provide concerned parents with information pertaining to the alleged offenders’ names and locations.

  However, in this instance, it’s not Tusla’s fault. It seems their hands are tied. While it has the power to deregister a childcare service, under the Child Care Act 1991, Tusla is only required to give the offender 21 days’ notice of deregistration and the right to appeal to the District Court. What this means is that when non-compliance is observed, (i.e. the unforgivable mistreatment of children as witnessed in RTE’s documentary), the agency merely has the ability to encourage improvement, as opposed to the legal statutory powers needed to enforce a closure. Wow, where’s the child protection policy there?

  So parents/grandparents/guardians, if you currently have a child or children attending a crèche/childcare facility, and you’re concerned about their welfare or indeed concerned if that facility is one of the ‘37’, here’s my advice. Sit down and write a list of those concerns; and, even if you have a good relationship with your crèche manager, insist, in a friendly manner, that he/she addresses your questions, one by one. Yes, it may be awkward, but you’re trusting this facility and paying good money for them to care for your precious child in a home-away-from home atmosphere, so, do what you know you have to do to ensure your child is safe. May I suggest you begin by asking the manager if they’ve undergone an inspection? If they have, ask them how they did. Ask to see written evidence of their results. In fact, if I managed a crèche, and it had undergone an inspection and passed, in light of recent happenings, I’d have my certificate framed inside the door for all to see. If your crèche discloses that they’ve unfortunately failed on certain issues, ask what they were, and ask when they expect to undergo their follow-up inspection. When it’s completed, ask to see the results. If they have undergone both inspections and yet still failed to comply with standards, for God’s sake, grab your child’s hand and take him/her home.

  Ring your boss, explain the urgency of the situation, and ask for a week’s leave while you arrange alternative, responsible childcare. Your boss will understand. It’s up to us as parents to place our children first, and I’m certain a grandparent, a kind neighbour, or another trustworthy adult will step up and provide you with either an emergency, or hopefully, a long-term solution.

  Again, I will add that there are fantastic childcare facilities across County Roscommon, and while this latest scandal is grossly unfair to them, I’m sure they will be delighted to address any parents’ concerns, (if they have them) regarding their professional practices. In the meantime, you could check Tusla’s Quality Regulatory Framework…for all the good that may do you. However, I understand Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is examining ways to increase Tusla’s powers where serious breaches of childcare regulations are identified. Let’s hope she does this without further delay.


Maybe Arlene needs to choose her side more carefully


As the Boris effect takes hold, a leaked UK government document is scaremongering us into thinking that a no-deal Brexit could ‘virtually stop’ cross-border agricultural trade in the North within 24 hours. Yes, quite literally overnight. And, following this, the advice from our fearless leader was that er, “We should be afraid of a no-deal Brexit”. Talk about stating the fizzin’ obvious Leo.

  Now, mind you, that Arlene Foster’s bold “dial down the rhetoric” response to our Leo wasn’t very helpful, was it? And it’s my opinion that she’d do well to wake up and share our concerns; as opposed to obtusely getting sucked into the whole Boris hype. So, with that in mind, perhaps Arlene should set aside a bit of time to consider her own party’s options and choose her side more carefully. You see Arlene, Leo is actually talking sense. Boris is merely spewing bluster. This means you’d do well to bear in mind that if farmers here are hit, it’s my view that those living North of the border, in your constituency, will likely suffer even greater losses.

  While Arlene is throwing around big words like ‘belligerent’ and ‘intolerant’ to describe our government’s reaction, let me throw one back at her…ignorance! She doesn’t seem to grasp that the reason we’re insisting on a ‘backstop or nothing’ is because it’s an insurance policy. Not just for us, but for the North too. And while Arlene actively searches for more colourful adjectives to hurl at us down here in the South, let me ask her this important question. Did it conveniently escape her notice that, as Boris visited the North for his little love-in last week, he managed to totally avoid speaking to the one group she’s apparently so concerned with, i.e. the farmers? Too busy fan-girling all over the Slum-Dodge Millionaire love?  

  But look…big picture, readers. I don’t think a crash-out is going to happen. In fact, I think old BJ will find himself facing a massive rebellion among the troops, resulting in his government collapsing, thus sparking a General Election. I mean, how can the Brits take him seriously? For God’s sake, this man’s first act as Prime Minister was to buy himself a £500 digital Brexit countdown clock to hang on the walls of his War Cabinet room! What does that tell you? It tells me that the individual the great British public has tasked with delivering Brexit is really nothing more than a stupid little boy with a novelty toy.


Thank you!


I’m sick to death of being incarcerated in a surgical boot large enough to sail down the River Shannon in! As someone who has no patience, I’d prefer to suffer acute pain and discomfort for a short period of time, as opposed to spending what I’ve been told may possibly be twelve weeks, strapped into this unsightly contraption, accessorised by a pair of clumpy crutches!

  However, as I struggle on, I’ve realised one thing, and it’s this…the people of Roscommon are genuinely decent, salt-of-the-earth folks. So, this week, can I say a massive thank you to everyone who has approached me offering their support, saying how they’d read about my tumble. Thank you to those who stopped what they were doing to open doors and carry coffee for me, etc. You’re all diamonds.