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Irish fathers look set to benefit from two weeks paid paternity leave

Junior minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said he’s confident this provision will be included in new legislation currently being drafted.

Image: RTÉ

EQUALITY MINISTER AODHÁN Ó Ríordáin has said he is confidence the provision of two weeks of paid paternity leave will be included in the Family Leave Bill, which is currently being drafted.

The bill will consolidate current provisions for maternity, adoptive, parental and carer’s leave into the one piece of legislation. Speaking to RTÉ’s Prime Time programme tonight, the junior minister said paternity leave in Ireland is “something we are well behind on”.

“Most European countries have statutory paternity leave. We don’t. I think an introduction of two weeks paid paternity leave would be welcome,” he said.

I am as confident as I can be at this stage that there will be two weeks paid paternity leave in that legislation but there is no definite in Irish politics. Things can change and priorities can change but I know that I’m committed to it and I know that Minister Fitzgerald is committed to it and as I say it’s an important start to the conversation about what we want from Irish society for children for parents, for families.

Currently, maternity benefit is paid for 26 weeks at €230 a week, with an additional 16 unpaid weeks available. Ireland is one of nine European countries that does not provide a statutory entitlement to paid paternity leave.

Ó Ríordáin said the cost to the Exchequer “wouldn’t be very expensive”, as he has heard of a figure of about €10 million.

Engagement with employers has yet to take place on this but the junior minister said the priority will be what’s best for children. The government has already agreed not to oppose a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Senator Mary White in the Seanad which provided for the sharing of current maternity leave by both parents.

“This should be a rolling conversation about what type of society we want. What our value system is when it comes to parenting,” he said.

“What expectation we have of our families in Irish society when a child is born. And what’s best for the family should be the first thing we think about and not the difficulties an employer or a workplace would have. The central point remains that a happy worker means a happy work place. You should never come to a situation where a pregnancy causes a problem.”

“True heroes”

Also appearing on the show tonight was Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde who repeated her statements about Irish people being the “true heroes” of the bailout. When it was put to her by presenter Miriam O’Callaghan that many people may not feel it is heroic to endure austerity to pay back someone else’s debts, she responded:

I can completely understand that but if it hadn’t been for the resilience, the determination and the collective ownership of restoring the economic and financial situation of Ireland it wouldn’t have worked as well as it has. You know when I look at numbers whether it’s growth: Best in the Eurozone. Ireland. Cutting the deficit in half, almost: Ireland. Reducing the debt and changing its direction downward. Who is it? Ireland.

She said she hoped the idea of privatising the banks that have been re-capitalised is explored by the Irish government as a means of getting some of the taxpayers’ money back.

Lagarde was also asked if she was concerned that since Ireland exited the bailout, a number of tough measures proposed by the Government has been rowed back on.

She said: “What would concern me is that the very significant efforts and sacrifices made by the Irish people were in vain and wasted for the sake of some incremental proposal that would damage the overall macro economic situation. I’m sure that won’t happen.”

Read: Ireland is the IMF’s star pupil. But that doesn’t mean you’re getting any debt relief>

Opinion: Stay-at-home fathers are still seen as a ‘novelty’ but perceptions are slowly changing>

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