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Sinead Ryan: If we can fund our museums, we can find Childline cash


Ryan Dolan during the Cheerios Childline Concert at the 3Arena Dublin.
Photo:  Gareth Chaney Collins

Ryan Dolan during the Cheerios Childline Concert at the 3Arena Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Ryan Dolan during the Cheerios Childline Concert at the 3Arena Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

IN anybody’s language, €1.2m is a lot of money – enough to pay water charges for 7,500 families.

But few of us would begrudge it spent on something far more important, like keeping vital Childline services open.

The charity, which operates on a 24-hour basis has said it will have no option but to close the night-time service, which accounts for 11pc of its 1,800 calls every day, due to lack of funding.

Here’s another large figure – €2m. This was what Minister Heather Humphries was “delighted” to find, at a moment’s notice last week when it looked like four museums might have to close their doors for the same reason.

There was no Dail debate, nor did it take months of pleading. It was just found, from where, we’re not quite sure.  Still, she’s “delighted”, she said, to be able to hand it over so that tourists can continue to look at our national treasures with the lights on.

I don’t begrudge them but Ms Humphries has already pronounced herself against an entrance fee which might avoid them running into deficit. I wonder if there was a sign suggesting people might like to donate €1 towards Childline given the taxpayer has so generously funded free museums, how many might like to contribute?

Because it’s about priorities.  Rows will always exist over what is more important. But I’d like to see the person who ranks children being abused and bullied below sculpture.  I doubt that even think sculptors would.

Barbara Bush, former teacher and wife and mother to a US President once said she looked forward to the day when schools were fully funded and the Department of Defence had to hold a cake sale to keep going. 

But let’s look nearer the health sphere if we’re talking budget allocation.

Minister Leo Varadkar is currently seeking €680m (566 times what Childline needs) because of HSE budget over-runs. 

Yes, some of that includes services for children but a portion is going on pensions of retiring staff.

Pensions are important; just ask Brendan Howlin. He got very ratty during a debate looking for an extra €33m (27 times Childline’s needs) because more public servants than he expected retired this year and they’re all ‘entitled’ to tax free lump sums averaging €110,000 each.

He told Sean Fleming TD that this was something “any half-wit” (his words) could understand.

Well, this half-wit doesn’t quite see how that’s more important than making certain a 10-year-old girl, locked into a cupboard, terrified of her abusive father can’t get a phone call for help at 2am.

Mr Howlin played his trump card by pronouncing that it was a “demand-led” service (a bit like the HSE) and therefore he couldn’t possibly be expected to get the numbers right. That’s quite true.

But here’s another ‘demand-led’ service – Childline.

They also, like Ministers Howlin and Varadkar, try their best to guesstimate the numbers that require their services and sometimes they get it wrong. I imagine all would prefer to be in the place where nobody needed them at all, but reality intervenes.

Enda Kenny put our children front and centre stage after the horrific Cloyne report.

“When I say that through our legislation, through our Government’s action to put Children First, those who have been abused can take some small comfort in knowing that they belong to a nation, to a democracy where humanity, power, rights, responsibility are enshrined and enacted, always....always.... for their good.

“Where the law – their law – as citizens of this country, will always supercedes canon laws that have neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country.”

Powerful stuff indeed.

He underpinned his commitment further: “Safeguarding their [children’s] integrity and innocence must be a national priority. This is why I undertook to create a Cabinet ministry for Children and Youth Affairs.” 

The current Minister happens to be one Dr James Reilly, well used to going cap in hand to Government. Perhaps he could usefully do it now.

Text CHILDLINE to 57911 to donate €4