Monday, December 19, 2011

Let children be children

Statement Issued : Monday 19 December, 2011

Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called on the Government to tackle the growing problem of the sexualisation and commercialisation of children and young people in Ireland. Deputy Ó Ríordáin was speaking after raising this matter with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the floor of the House.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin states: "The issue of the sexualisation and commercialisation of our children and young people is an enormous problem in this society which often goes unnoticed. Too often we are finding that the youth of this society are being targeted by large companies and retailers with increasingly explicit clothing and products. I witnessed this first hand as a former school principal when some students would attend class with pencil cases and school bags brandishing a 'Playboy' logo.

"Fundamentally, what this process amounts to is an attack on childhood. Our children and young people should not be subjected, in any way, to the type of manipulative marketing that rationale adults are so often subjected to. Thus, it is incumbent on all of us in this society to do everything we can to protect the innocence of childhood.

"I was very encouraged to hear the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs affirm that the solution to this problem should be a cross-community one, involving parents, guardians, public representatives, business, media and the Internet industry. It is not my belief however that we become overly restrictive as a society. Rather, what I would like to see is a comprehensive analysis of this problem to be carried out by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in order to ascertain how we properly regulate this growing problem.

"We need look no further than the UK for a starting point where the Bailey Report Letting Children Be Children recommended numerous measures to tackle this issue. In addition, I was greatly encouraged by the Minister's comments in which she cited the new guidelines laid down by the authorities in Great Britain which spelled out a comprehensive programme for the responsible retailing of children's wear. Further, the authorities in the UK required all of the major retailers to sign up to these measures. Taking into account the fact that many of these stores such as Tesco, Debenhams and Marks & Spencers operate in the Irish market, I see no reason why the Government here cannot enact similar guidelines.

"The absence of a retailer code of conduct in this regard or even basic guidelines in this country is greatly hindering our progress in this area. I will continue to pursue this issue with the Minister and the Government and it is my wish that basic measures similar to the guidelines in the UK become a reality here in the near future."