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Marisa Mackle: Children are at risk from selfish parents

I found a little girl at the airport the other day. She was about two and seemed to be on her own. She was dancing around the bottom of the escalator and people were rushing by in their business suits, too busy to notice.

I asked the girl where her parents were and she pointed towards the pub. Thinking the poor parents must be out of their minds with worry, I brought her into the pub and reunited them with their child.

Did they thank me? On the contrary.

"Oh, she's grand," said the mother, glowering at me over her pint.

"Well I was concerned for her safety," I explained. "It's dangerous to be messing on an escalator."

"She always does that," said the father with an air of hostility. How dare they use a busy escalator as some kind of amusement ride for their child! But since becoming a parent I have become far more aware of child neglect. I see it all around me.

I went out to Portmarnock beach during the hot weather and couldn't believe the amount of booze families were knocking back as they completely ignored their kids. One couple were so tanked up that when their child went wandering off and ended up in the middle of a pack of dogs, they didn't even seem to notice. Worse, when they did, they thought it was funny.

Child abuse is very much out in the open on the streets of Dublin with people turning a blind eye to it. Does nobody else notice the junkies on Henry Street pushing prams with fags hanging from the side of their mouths and their eyes rolling around in their heads? Their children don't seem fussed because they are so used to it. That's just the way Mam and Dad are, right?

Only in Ireland do kids seem to spend so much time in pubs. I was in a beer garden having lunch and I noticed a little red-haired baby in a pram with a bright red face and sunburnt arms. I was extremely concerned and I said to the mother that the child should be in the shade. To say she looked furious is one of the understatements of the year.

"You can't take on the world," my friend advised as we left. Right. So nobody should say anything? And children should continue to suffer neglect? Some parents are so damn selfish it makes me sick.


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