herald

Saturday 24 June 2017

Age is no barrier as council set to allow children in

Green Party's Claire Byrne
Green Party's Claire Byrne

It is often the scene of heated debates over the pressing political issues of the day.

However, Dublin City Council's chamber will soon host a different sound - the pitter patter of tiny feet.

Babies will be accompanying their politician parents to meetings of the council under proposals that are likely to get the go-ahead this week.

Feeding

The protocol committee of the council has been considering the provision of facilities for both younger and older children, to help out councillors juggling parenting and politics .

Transforming a small men's toilet into a breastfeeding and baby changing area, and allowing parents to have their babies sit with them during meetings, are among the proposals.

Older children will sit in the public gallery.

However, councillors will be expected to take their babies out of the chamber if they get upset or are causing disruption during council meetings.

The genesis of the proposals was an incident in which Green Party councillor Claire Byrne was told she could not bring her three-month-old son to a meeting. She welcomed the new proposals.

"I think it's great; it's a really progressive step," she told the Herald. "For me, I was breastfeeding when we were going through the city development plan. It was 10-hour days, which is difficult when you are feeding."

"It's not about using the council chamber as a childcare facility, but helps if you're really, really stuck.

"Addressing the issue of possible disruptions to council meetings, she said parents would leave if there was a problem.

Minder

"Obviously, if a child is screaming its head off, you're not going to stay in the chamber," she said.

Chairman of the protocol committee, Dermot Lacey, pointed out that many councillors were now working as full-time representatives.

"If you were to pay a child minder, you won't see much out of your €16,000 a year," he said.

"This is an issue that's been bubbling under the surface for a couple of months."

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