Jim O'Callaghan: 'Parents need a tax break for childcare'
It requires nerves of steel, extraordinary courage and remarkable determination to have children in Ireland today.
Despite all our self-congratulatory talk about family values and the like, we have somehow managed to create a very cold house indeed when it comes to young people struggling to raise their kids.
Young people with ambitions to start a family are being forced to wait - the average age of the modern Irish mother is 30 years, and rising.
The most egregious cost is childcare. A recent survey revealed how childcare costs for a parent, or parents, working outside the home can be as high as €1,150 for one child, and up to €2,035-a-month for two children.
The Budget increase of just €5 in Child Benefit was welcome, but it doesn't even start to dismantle the cruelty of a system that fails to acknowledge the contribution made to Irish society, now and into the future, by those who have children.
The €135 in Child Benefit for a single child, rising to €1,080 a month for eight children is just a drop in the ocean.
There is no denying that this is a complex area of public policy. The State is already contributing well over €2bn annually through the Child Benefit scheme.
But much more needs to be done if young parents are ever to receive fairness and equity.
There are two ways of achieving this: either a full tax break for childcare costs, or further capitation payments for all children.
Tax breaks would ease the scourge parents are now being forced to endure, while the increased capitation payments, on top of Child Benefit, would reduce the burden on all parents, including those who decide to stay at home with their children at home.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar is on record as saying that tax breaks could simply push up childcare costs - a logic which if accepted would undermine most if not all tax breaks.
Something has to be done. Young people need a break. We need to demonstrate how much we value their contribution to society by the children they raise.
We need to remove the heartless and anti-family policies that have turned their lives into a daily struggle.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he wants Ireland to be the best little country in the world in which to do business.
But what about an Ireland where young people can dare to dream of raising a family without being put off and frightened out of their wits by the certainty, as exists now, of years of hardship, fatigue, adversity and financial persecution?
Young parents deserve fair play. They must not be forced to wait any longer.
Jim O'Callaghan is a Fianna Fáil councillor on Dublin City Council