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John Lonergan: "Our treatment of children has been appalling"

The former governor of Mountjoy said that it will be easy to get the children’s rights referendum passed – but warned that the real test will come afterwards.

Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland!

THE FORMER GOVERNOR of Mountjoy prison John Lonergan has said it will be “easy” for the government to pass the children’s rights referendum – but warned that the real test will come afterwards.

Speaking at a Dublin conference on children, Lonergan said that Irish society has repeatedly failed children. He said that Ireland’s history shows “that we’re much better at reacting to things, and reaction often does worse damage”.

“Our treatment of children has been appalling,” said Lonergan.

We have pointed the finger, blamed people and institutions, but what we have failed to do is realise that we as a society failed. All of us failed children.

Lonergan said that the easiest part of the job facing the government is to get the referendum passed. “But that is only the beginning,” he told the conference.

“The real task is to ask are we going to ensure the necessary resources are there so that the philosophy of the referendum is delivered for children and families,” he said.

The conference on what’s working for children in Ireland was organised by Archways, which works with children with social, emotional or behavioural problems.

Lonergan stressed the importance of early intervention in children’s lives and told the conference about the difficulties faced by many of the prisoners he had seen in prison which could possibly have been averted.

When I started working in the prison service, the belief was that all the baddies were on the inside and all the goodies were outside. The reality was very different. Most of those in prison were more suited to the county home. Most had serious mental and behaviour difficulties which were simply not dealt with.

Read: Experts weight in on children’s referendum  >

Read: Children’s referendum ‘not a charter for breaking up families’ – Fitzgerald >

Read: Opposition parties likely to support Children’s Rights referendum >

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