Remarks at the opening of Liscarroll’s Community Childcare Facility and Housing Project
Liscarroll, Co. Cork, 15th November 2013
Tá áthas orm bheith libh tráthnóna chun an dá áis seo a oscailt go hoifigiúil. Dhá áis iad a chuirfidh go mór le caighdeán seirbhísí agus le mianach saoil anseo i Lios Cearúill, is iad sin an saoráid íontach cúram leanaí seo Teach na nÓige agus an coimpléacs cónaithe do dhaoine aosta atá buailte leí.
[I am delighted to be with you this afternoon to officially open two amenities which can only improve the standards of services and the quality of life in Liscarroll, namely this worthy childcare facility, Teach na nÓige, and the neighbouring housing complex for the elderly.]
I would like to thank Jerry Murphy, Secretary of the Liscarroll Community Council Limited, who invited me to join you today. May I also thank Liam Fitzpatrick, Chairman, for his kind words of introduction, and all of you who are gathered here for the great welcome you have given me.
Since my inauguration, I have visited many villages, towns and cities across Ireland, and each time I am impressed by the remarkable propensity of our citizens to form partnerships and to act in solidarity. Each time I feel greatly encouraged by their ability to work hard and in concert to meet the specific needs of their communities. Everywhere I am struck by the resilience, courage and creativity of Irish people.
A recurring feature of my visits has been the encounter with women and men who do their very best to address the needs generated by the transformation of Irish society – notably the change in the ‘traditional’ family structure.
Indeed alike other Western countries, Ireland is witnessing a demographic shift towards smaller nuclear families, an increasing number of single parent families, and longer life expectancy, with this last trend placing greater emphasis on the need to provide independent living for older people. Women working outside the home, suburbanisation, and daily commuting are three other key characteristics of contemporary daily life on our island. And the combination of all these factors raises important new challenges in terms of how we care for our children and elderly.
The building of a better future always begins with people who concern themselves with the present, with the challenges faced by their communities, who begin to plan, and who stay focused until they have reached their goal. You have such people here in Liscarroll.
The Liscarroll Community Council Limited is a shining example of the many non-profit voluntary organisations which perform such valuable work in the challenging financial circumstances our country is traversing. Through the building of this crèche which hosts us today, you have achieved something very concrete and useful for Liscarroll and the neighbouring areas, and I congratulate you for all your efforts.
I understand that the realisation we are celebrating this afternoon was initiated in 2003, when a group of six people – namely Jerry Murphy, Liam Fitzpatrick, Donal Horgan, Morgan Madden, Sean Burton and Pat O’Brien – came together and personally borrowed money from the bank in order to purchase the field on which now stand Teach na nÓige and the housing project for the elderly.
In order to complete their task successfully, this small group of locals set up a company limited by guarantee, and that is how the Liscarroll Community Council Limited was duly formed. As a non-profit organisation, all its revenue is used to provide the best service possible to the families who avail of this crèche. Today, the houses for the elderly are run by Respond!, with the support of Cork County Council.
The interesting insight from the Liscarroll Community Council Limited story is how a small group of volunteers were able to see the need for these facilities, and then to set about making the connections and the partnership that would deliver on that requirement. They did so after much consultation with the local community and, I was impressed to see, even undertook a survey to identify the most pressing needs.
Indeed both facilities were in need. Prior to the construction of the community crèche, parents had to rely predominantly on child minders or family for childcare. Many people in the area have to commute daily to Cork City, Limerick City and Mallow for employment. We are all aware of the crucial role quality childcare arrangements play in the welfare of families, of how they determine, in particular, women’s ability to work outside the home. Teach na nÓige thus came to fill a gap, by providing a range of geographically accessible and financially affordable childcare services for the local population.
The two projects also fit within the overall strategy of Cork County Council’s Local Area Plan, which aims at developing the village of Liscarroll as a service provider for both its own population and the surrounding hinterland.
Teach na nÓige, which opened its doors to Liscarroll and seven other nearby communities in 2011, has grown from strength to strength. Having started out with twenty children, today it has sixty children in its care, from the age of six months to twelve years.
I would like to avail of this occasion to acknowledge the fundraising efforts which have been undertaken, including by parents, to supplement the funding provided under the Community Childcare Subvention scheme, and ensure that this most useful facility for the Liscarroll area remains open and running.
May I extend special thanks to Teach na nÓige’s staff for their wonderful and important work with children. In particular, I wish to congratulate manager Tina Hayes for her commitment to the success of this facility, Mary Collins, who minds the babies, Shirley O’Hanlon and Jasmine Brosnan, who look after the toddlers, Hillary Heffernan, who is in charge of the pre-schoolers, and finally Mary O’Connor, who takes care of the after-schoolers.
Ireland’s children are Ireland’s future, and here you care about that future. Day after day, you make sure that the children get the best possible care, that they develop balanced, happy relations with one another, and that each child’s natural talents and gifts can blossom.
We all know how children’s engagement with the world is characterized by an extraordinary intensity. Therefore it is of critical importance that, during the formative years of childhood, every person be given not only care and attention, but also as many chances as possible to use their imagination. I know that here, in Teach na nÓige, children are encouraged to make such creative use of their imagination; they are invited to watch and listen, but also to play, paint, draw and dance, to tell stories and sing along.
Mar fhocal scoir ba mhaith liom sibh ar fad a spreagadh, idir bhaill fóirne, tuismitheoirí agus seantuismitheoirí, le teacht le chéile anseo chun an cumas ar leith atá i ngach páiste a chothú, chun a n-acmhainn íontais i leith an saoil a chothú agus chun an cumas suntasach sin atá acú i leith ceistithe tuairimí gnásúla a chothú.
[May I conclude by encouraging all of you gathered here – members of staff, parents and grand-parents alike – to continue to nurture the marvellous, unique potential that there is in each child, to cultivate their sense of wonder at the world, and to foster their remarkable ability to question conventional wisdom.]
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.