EUROPEAN Commission vice-president Margot Wallstrom has revealed her dismay at the lack of affordable childcare in Ireland.
Ms Wallstrom said yesterday that the stories she heard about the expense of childcare while on a visit to Cork were "almost shocking".
And she said it was crucial that childcare be radically reformed so more Irish women can enter the workplace.
"It was almost shocking to hear what the situation looks like for some women and single parents in particular," she said.
"The stories that we heard yesterday, there were people who could bear witness to what the economic crisis can do to a family."
The exorbitant cost of creches and other forms of childcare here has increasingly become a political issue in recent years, with many forced to quit their jobs to mind their children.
"It is so important for women to have the possibility of getting out in the workplace, and for the Irish economy it could be crucial," she said.
Ms Wallstrom, who was in Dublin to speak with members of the Generation Yes youth movement, said a ratified Lisbon Treaty would "encourage" affordable childcare in the EU.
Generation Yes is an independent movement with the aim of opening communication lines between young Irish people and politicians.
During a question and answer session at the new Ikea store in Ballymun yesterday, Ms Wallstrom expressed concern that a second 'No' vote from Ireland would lead to the possibility of a "two-speed" Europe.
In a lighter moment, Ms Wallstrom admitted that Charlie McCreevy had different politics to herself, and that she struggled to understand him "when he speaks fast".
"So we turn on the French [translation]," she quipped.