This past week has seen single parents (usually mothers) reacting to the budget cuts that have affected them so acutely. Vincent Brown gave the subject a good airing on his programme last Thursday.
One of the elements of the Irish government’s cut-backs is their proposal to phase out the payment of Lone Parents’ Allowance to parents of children over the age of 7.
What is the reasoning for this? That by the age of seven every child is expected to be in school and therefore, doesn’t need a mammy or daddy to come home to?
Clearly, this is an attempt to save costs. The idea is that mothers (for they are nearly all mothers) on LPA can stop this ‘mothering’ and ‘nurturing’ business and get the feck out the door and work for a change. This attitude is not only insulting – by implying that lone parents are feckless, lazy creatures who want to live and (try to) raise their kids on benefits – it’s also naive. Does this government think that by insisting that lone parents find paid employment as soon as their youngest child turns 7, jobs will automatically appear?
I’ve posed a lot of questions in this piece. But here’s my biggest question: Wouldn’t this proposed course of action require a referendum? I refer to Bunracht na hEireann, Article 41, 2.2:
‘The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.’
To insist that mothers are obliged, by economic necessity, to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home – of which child-rearing is the most important – is surely unconstitutional? Or am I missing something glaringly obvious?