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Varadkar criticises 'No' campaigner due to speak in tonight's TV3 debate

Kathy Sinnott is taking the ‘No’ side in the Vincent Browne-hosted debate on the upcoming children’s referendum. The FG director of elections called her claims on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night as “scaremongering”.

Kathy Sinnott and Leo Varadkar
Kathy Sinnott and Leo Varadkar
Image: Photocall Ireland

LEO VARADKAR, who is Fine Gael’s Director of Elections for the children’s referendum campaign, has launched a broadside against former MEP Kathy Sinnott and her fellow ‘No’ vote campaigners.

Varadkar said that Sinnott’s statistics around children in care were “made up”. In a short debate on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, Sinnott argued the ‘No’ side against children’s law solicitor Catherine Ghent’s arguments for a ‘Yes’ vote.

Varadkar said that Sinnott’s claim that “a child is six times more likely to die in care at the hands of the State, than in the care of their parents” (see from 29:00 in the video link above) was “incredible”. He added: “I can only conclude that Kathy Sinnott made up this statistic. There is quite simply no evidence to support it.”

Instead, claimed Varadkar, the death rate of children in care is “broadly in line with the death rate of the general population”. He cited 2008 figures when the death rate of children in care was “4.5 per 1,000″, while the death rate of the general population of children was “5.6 per 1,000″.

He also took issue with the claim from “the ‘No’ side” (he didn’t specify Kathy Sinnott here) that “less than 3 per cent of ‘care inmates’ will ever go on to further education”. He said this claim was “entirely incorrect” and said that a 2011 HSE study of young people in aftercare services “found that 614 of 1,015 young people” in that situation were in “full-time education” and that “most of the others” were working.

He called these claims – and another which claimed that 42 per cent of the prison population had been in care – “misleading and extremely disrespectful of children in the care system” and “blatant scaremongering”.

Kathy Sinnott is to argue the ‘No’ side, along with columnist John Waters, on TV3 tonight in a debate hosted by Vincent Browne at 10pm (check back with us at TheJournal.ie where we will be liveblogging the main points of the hour-long debate). Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Barnardo’s CEO Fergus Finlay will be arguing the ‘Yes’ side.

Near consensus – but here’s why both sides will get 50/50 coverage in the Referendum>

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