It is expensive to raise a family in Ireland, but we can ensure that no child is left behind. We must ensure that all of our children are treated equally and given the chance to fulfil their potential.
Labour will make primary education genuinely free-of-charge, to fulfil the guarantee in the Constitution. This will include a free schoolbooks scheme, a uniform grant and free healthy school meals.
Childcare needs to change. We need to bring Ireland into line with our European neighbours. Labour will develop a public Childcare Scheme for Working Parents, because parents should never have to choose between their children and their job. We will first target parents who cannot work because of the prohibitive cost of childcare. The service will include early drop-off times and late collection to reflect modern work practices and commute times, and will be based on best practice education, play and early learning. The costs to parents will be moderate, set at the EU average level of childcare costs – Irish parents are currently paying three times the EU average.
Labour will introduce new safeguards to protect young people from abuse and discrimination, including online. Labour will enact its Harassment and Harmful Communications Bill, to update the law to include harassment and bullying on the Internet, mobile phones and social media.
Labour will maintain a zero-tolerance stance on racism and xenophobia. All of our candidates and elected representatives will uphold the highest standards of respect for diversity and active anti-discrimination including in particular anti-racism.
Labour will introduce a New Irish policy to formally recognise that being a member of Irish society is not about parentage or citizenship but about being born here or choosing to make a long-term commitment to life in Ireland.
Labour will restore the right to citizenship to children raised in Ireland whose primary affiliation is to Ireland. At present, many children brought up in Ireland do not have an automatic right to citizenship because their parents are not Irish, even though they have never known another home. This can cause serious problem for them after school, such as an inability to go to college, to work or to travel. This legal change can be made under the existing provisions in the Constitution brought in by the 27th Amendment, which remove automatic citizenship for everyone born in Ireland.