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Sinead Ryan: Lazy, pampered, wasteful politicians should ask a struggling 13-year-old what 'luxury' means...

Government ministers are often accused of not living in the real world. Well, they do, of course. It's just that their world is one of pampered indulgence, a sense of entitlement and never being told no. Ask Ivor Callely.

Let's look at another, no less real, world -- the world of a 13- year-old boy who we'll call Sean. He's just started secondary school, although it was a struggle to get him there.

His mam and dad left school at 15; dad's been on the dole for years. Sean's brother left school at 16 to work on a building site, but sits at home now playing with his Xbox.

Sean finds school boring. In fact, he'd probably be mitching off all the time but for the fact that last year they got a brilliant new library.

Not the stuffy kind with all sorts of posh people in it, but it's kind of cool and Sean found out he likes reading stories. The library has bright colours, piles of books that aren't too hard, and a really nice lady who isn't on his back all the time. She lets him come in at lunchtime or sometimes after school when it's easier to get homework done without all the noise at home.



deprived

Sean had better watch out though. His library, along with the 30 others built in deprived schools at enormous cost may have to close because the staff were absurdly employed on a one-year contract which is coming to an end.

A specific investment to keep kids like Sean in education, they are now, by all accounts, seen as a luxury. Again, the slash-and-burn policy this Government seems intent on implementing is at work. There is no 'why?' now when budget cuts are made, only 'where?' And the easiest target is children, who don't vote.

We saw it with public swimming pools -- closing through lack of funding and public libraries -- those dilapidated sites next to the fabulous new county council offices for public sector officials we are borrowing €30m a day to pay for.

We see it with the Special Needs Assistants who are joining the dole queues and the disability groups who can't afford equipment or indeed, physiotherapists to use it. Dentists can't look after children's teeth and woe betide them if they need an operation.

So, amid all these outlandish luxuries that parents demand for their kids, let's look at the things the Government considers essential. Well, there was the €120,000 spend on a highly important audit of frogs. Oh, and €1m on translating public documents as Gaeilge which nobody reads.



SHAMEFUL

What about the millions spent on PR consultants to spin all the bad news? Or the €47,000 netted by each Senator in expenses last year. Just for turning up, like. It all makes perfect sense. So, perhaps one of the expensive spin doctors or even one of the part-time Senators, could pop around to Sean and tell him why the library which helps him and his friends not become another shameful statistic might be boarded up.

Maybe the former Children's Minister Brian Lenihan or Education Minister Mary Coughlan, who opened the super- libraries in schools in their constituencies, could let them know when to get out the dustsheets.

And while we're looking at shameful statistics -- here's another one: one in four Irish people were found to be functionally illiterate in a European study. They weren't being tested on their interpretation of Ulysses but whether they could read medicine bottles, road signs or fill out a form. The Government target is to get this down to 'just' 300,000 illiterates by 2016 and closing libraries is clearly a good place to start.

The National Literacy Agency says early school leavers are most vulnerable as 30pc of them can't read or write. "As they grow up, their ability to fully contribute to economic, family and community life may be reduced," it says.

Watch out ministers, that may prevent them from putting an X by your name on the ballot paper.


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