Pat Rabbitte is a Labour Party TD in the Dáil. He is also Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. As a former leader of the Labour Party and someone who has been politically active for many years now, you would expect that he would be conscious of how closely every utterance he makes is monitored and assessed.
Imagine then my shock which rapidly turned to anger and disgust when, during an interview with Colette Fitzpatrick for the ‘Midweek’ programme for TV3, Minister Rabbitte referred to the protests against cuts in SNA (special needs assistants) positions and in resource hours and the media coverage of these protests and campaigns as ‘hype’. The word hype is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as a noun “when something is advertised and discussed in newspapers, on television, etc. all the time in order to attract everyone’s interest.” See the definition here. Well, ok, maybe he has a point – we are desperately trying to get more tv and newspaper coverage of this issue in order to make more people aware of the reality that children in Ireland with special needs are having more and more barriers placed in their way in their attempt to receive an education.
But then thinking about it some more, the word ‘hype’ is generally used in a derogatory fashion – “Don’t believe the hype” for example. I cannot think of an instance where I have seen or indeed used the word hype in a positive or complimentary way. In fact, its often used to refer to something that has little real substance. So if you follow my train of thought, that means that Pat Rabbitte, a political activist of many years standing and a TD for 22 years, thinks that the campaign of parents, teachers, SNAs and others to ensure that children with special needs get the education they are entitled to in this State, is being overblown.
Tell that to the parents of children attending St. Raphael’s Special School in Celbridge, Co. Kildare where some children are only able to attend for an hour a day as there is not enough SNAs to allow them attend full-time. Tell that to the parents of a boy with spina bifida who has had no SNA at all some days since he started back at mainstream school two weeks ago and who now has reduced hours instead of the full-time SNA he used to have.
You can see the TV3 interview here and make up your own minds. Maybe I’m overreacting, but the more I hear about how the next budget in December is going to be another hard one and that there are going to have to be more cuts, the less faith I have that my daughter will get the opportunity to receive the education she deserves when she starts school in a year or two’s time. So its kind of a sensitive area for me, even more so when I read about Dermot McCarthy, the former Secretary General to the Government, who is to receive a pay-off and pension totalling €713,000. And the Government are not going to do a damn thing about it. Story here.
And then people wonder why we are getting angry???? We need to get angrier, and louder, and we need the support of more and more people in this country.
Every child has the right to an education.