I am writing to you today to mark the one year anniversary of my appointment to Seanad Éireann as a Taoiseach’s Nominee. The first twelve months has been an incredible experience. I often say “every day is a school day”, and this has been especially true in my role as Senator. I’d like to thank the many people within Leinster House, from the Seanad Clerks to my fellow Senators, for making the learning curve manageable.
I have endeavored since the date of my appointment to make my contribution in the Seanad and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children as valuable and constructive as possible.
I am driven by social justice issues and promoting and protecting human rights, particularly of vulnerable and marginalised groups. I hope this is reflected in the areas and issues I engaging in.
As many of you know, the wheels of change turn slowly and so a lot of what I am doing is work in progress. Some of these notable steps in the right direction include securing Government commitment to: make the 116 000 Missing Children Hotline operational; consider criminalising the purchase of sex in Ireland to curb prostitution and trafficking; and to fully consider blocking child abuse material on the internet. I am committed to following these initiatives through to fruition, and I revisit them in the Seanad on a regular basis.
I have spoken on, and submitted amendments to, a number of important Bills including: the Female Genital Mutilation Bill, Withholding Information on Crimes Against Children and Vulnerable Adults Bill, Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill, Oireachtas Inquiries Bill, Judges Remuneration Bill, and the Social Welfare Bill. With respect to the latter, I was particularly disappointed that the Government pressed ahead with the cuts to the One Parent Family Payment. I maintain my position that 7 is too young and I will continue to vocally oppose the changes unless and until affordable and accessible childcare is in place.
On 9 May 2012, along with Senator John Crown and Senator Mark Daly I initiated my first Bill into the Seanad on Protection of Children’s Health from Tobacco Smoke, which has passed the first stage. I plan to initiate more Bills in the future. Until then, a considerable amount of my focus will be dedicated to the upcoming Children’s Rights Referendum.
For your information, I have attached links to a number of my Seanad speeches, which can also be viewed on my YouTube channel
Housing Policy, the Fiscal Treaty, banning of smoking in cars when children are present, International Women’s Day, Rare Diseases, Early Intervention and Child Support Services, Blocking child abuse material online, Foreign Affairs, Electoral Law and Political Funding, Services for People with Disabilities, Ireland’s Human Rights record, St. Patrick’s Institution, Recent Developments in Eurozone and European Council, Social Welfare Legislation, the establishment of a new Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Mortgage Arrears, the Community and Voluntary Sector, the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan, Constitutional Amendments, the Irish language, Special Needs Assistants, Missing Children’s Hotline, Child Care and Protection, School Transport, Human Trafficking and Prostitution, Female Genital Mutilation, the National Vetting Bureau, the Cloyne Report, Alcohol Pricing, and Whistleblowing Legislation.
As a final note, I would like to sincerely thank all the NGOs, Civil Society Organisations, Community and Voluntary Organisations and interested members of the public who have shared their concerns and expertise with me along the way. Your contribution to my work has been invaluable. I believe we are moving closer in many areas to achieving our shared goals and I look forward to your continued input and support.
Senator Jillian van Turnhout