Tuesday 27 September 2016

Real vision is needed, not election promises

Published 02/02/2016 | 02:30

As President Higgins says, there is nothing so technical that it cannot be explained to people
As President Higgins says, there is nothing so technical that it cannot be explained to people

Comments from President Michael D Higgins about the need to create a more ethical and inclusive society are to be welcomed in the run-up to the General Election.

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In particular, his suggestion that all political parties must engage in long-term planning should be heeded.

 For too long, the political class has promoted policies which appeal to the electorate in an election cycle, without taking a holistic view of what the country needs to enable it prosper in the longer term. If the mistakes of the recent past which brought this country to its knees are to be avoided in the future, the citizen must be afforded the opportunity to engage in real decision-making.

This means equipping the next generation with the tools to probe and question key decision-makers.

 It means explaining complicated arguments and concepts to those who will be most affected.

 As President Higgins says, there is nothing so technical that it cannot be explained to people. Ireland is at a crucial point in its history. The commemoration of Easter 1916 allows us to critically assess if the vision of our founding fathers has been realised. We can make the necessary changes to guarantee religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all our citizens. More forums for discussion in communities are planned over the coming year to foster further dialogue. They will be held online, in cafes and in community centres to help gather the greatest breath of opinion.

It is clear that much work needs to be done, but there has never been a greater appetite for change.

 The electorate should ask those seeking their votes in the coming weeks for their long-term priorities for our fledgling nation, and not just those designed to take office and return to business as usual.

HSE must give answers on shocking abuse case

The distressing prospect of another statutory commission into claims of abuse looms once again.

Many had hoped that we had seen the last of such investigations. Given the heart-rending experiences of so many who suffered institutional abuse in this country, it was anticipated that ironclad safeguards and checks would be put in place in order to guarantee that young vulnerable victims would never have to suffer in silence again.

The latest grave allegations, which include rape, are truly shocking. As the minister responsible for mental health, Kathleen Lynch, said: “It is clear that there have been failures in protecting vulnerable people in our care. For a number of reasons, it has been difficult to establish the facts with certainty.”

Precisely how one woman, given the pseudonym ‘Grace’, remained at the home until 2009, after most of the others had been removed in 1996, must be explained. She was finally removed following an intervention by her birth mother.

The HSE must be forthcoming in providing answers. The safety of  all vulnerable adults and children with intellectual disabilities has to be assured. 

Ms Lynch believes a commission of investigation is the best means of getting at the truth. The Cabinet will discuss the need for such an investigation and it is to be hoped that it will give it the go-ahead without delay. Whatever the mechanism, these claims must be examined and every instrument available must be called upon to establish the facts.

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