O'Dea slams Doherty paternity remarks as 'a gross insult' to men
Minister Regina Doherty has come under fire for suggesting money is not the reason for the low take-up of paternity leave among fathers.
Her remarks were branded a "gross insult" to men amid arguments that the decision comes down to "pure hard cash" and the need to pay mortgages and creche fees.
The row comes as the Government announced plans for extended parental leave, including another two weeks for fathers.
Figures show that around 60pc of men do not avail of existing paternity leave, and Social Protection Minister Ms Doherty made some pointed remarks about men not taking up the options.
She said there was "a narrative that the value of money associated with the scheme isn't enough for men to take off work".
Ms Doherty added: "It doesn't seem to have stopped women from taking maternity leave for time immemorial."
Under the plans, the State will pay €245 per week, which may be voluntarily topped up by private companies if employees are on a higher salary.
Fianna Fail's social protection spokesman Willie O'Dea accused Ms Doherty of suggesting men had no interest in looking after their children in their formative years, which he said was a "gross insult".
"In my experience, the vast majority of cases where people don't take paternity leave, it's because they can't afford it," he said.
Mr O'Dea said a man taking home €600 or €700 a week was "put to the pin of his collar" trying to pay a mortgage, and that €245 per week was a disincentive to take paternity leave.
Richard Grogan, a specialist employment law solicitor, said the proposals for two weeks' additional parental leave would be "as abysmal a failure as the paternity leave scheme".
He told the Herald it was "virtually impossible" for fathers to take the existing leave because they have mortgages or rent as well as creche fees to pay.
He said the decision came down to "pure hard cash", adding that Ms Doherty should provide research to back up her suggestion that money was not the reason for the low take-up.
Ms Doherty responded to the criticism last night, saying: "I've never claimed that new fathers don't want to spend time with their children - most do - but I have said we need to have a conversation in this country around gender roles."
She said there was still a perception "that caring was a woman's thing and that taking time off real work was still a novelty for fathers".
She argued that the remarks by Mr O'Dea and Mr Grogan "underline the resistance to any cultural change around who cares and who works".