8 June 2000
Sinn Fein TD backs Dáil move for more facilities for children with special education needs
Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday in support of an Opposition Private Member's Motion calling for greater facilities for children with special educational needs, including more remedial teachers, Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
One of the most damning statistics published about Ireland in recent years was that nearly a quarter of Irish adults have problems with even the simplest literacy task. The figure was met with disbelief by many but it came as no surprise to teachers and to the numerous parents who have children with learning difficulties.
This country shares with Britain and the United States the shameful distinction of having rates of illiteracy totally out of tune with their supposed developed societies and advanced economies. Contrast this with Sweden, where the comparable rate of illiteracy is just 6 per cent. Of course, the root of the problem is that here, in Britain and in the US, one of the chief indicators of the gross social and economic inequality which we suffer is educational disadvantage among large sections of the population. Like long-term unemployment and bad housing conditions, educational disadvantage crosses the generations.
That this situation pertains in the supposedly affluent society of Ireland in the year 2000, this millennium year, is a disgrace. It is an indictment of the stewardship of education by successive Governments, and none more so than the present Administration. Thousands of Irish children are leaving primary school without literacy and numeracy skills. These children have been robbed of the most vital learning years. They are being left behind because of the failure of Government to provide the necessary infrastructure to ensure that all our children are given an equal opportunity in education.
I would like to refer in particular to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - ADHD. For these children the earliest intervention possible is absolutely essential. At present there is a total lack of proper diagnosis and assessment and parents have told me of waiting lists of up to two years for assessment.
I urge the Minister and the Government to seriously address this real and pressing need.
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