This is a newsletter from Senator Jillian van Turnhout. 

Email Newsletter - April 2015

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and that 2015 has got off to a successful start. Things are as busy as ever for me both inside and outside the Oireachtas and I bring you this Newsletter as a whistle stop tour of some of my key contributions and events I have attended since January:

BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition
Road To Change Walk To Stop The Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse
Millie's Trust
National Pyjama Day 2015
Stop Alcohol Industry Involvement in Public Health Campaigns
Gender Recognition Bill 2014
Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015

You can follow my work on in more detail on my website I hope there is something that will spark your interest and as ever I encourage you to get in touch if you would like to discuss or contribute to any of my work.
Best wishes,

BT Young Scientist Exhibition:

Over the last 3 years it has been the tradition that my assistant Amy and I kick off the January term with a visit to the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition in the RDS. I am always so impressed by the young people involved and inspired by the complexity and sophistication of their projects. Among the excellent pieces I saw this year was the design and manufacture of an electronically controlled robotic arm capable of manipulating hand tools. Wow! The 3 students from Salesian College, Pallaskenry in Co Limerick-Alex with a flair for electronics, Kevin for design and wiring, and Sean who is already a skilled blacksmith-demonstrated just how powerful combining skills and competencies and working together can be. This is true at every level and is a lesson to us all.  I returned to the Seanad further motivated to reach out to colleagues and secure consensus in the issues I raise. A huge well done to all the young people who participated, BT for sponsoring the event and the 200 “Red Coat” volunteers who help bring the innovation to life. A special thanks to Mairead and Darren who showed us around. 

Road To Change Walk To Stop The Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse

On 21 January, I was delighted to meet with a kilt-clad Matthew McVarishhere in the Oireachtas as he embarked on the last leg of his Road To Change Project.Beginning in May 2013 and finishing along Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile Street on Saturday 7 February, Matthew visited 32 capital cities in Europe and walked an unbelievable 16,000km to Stop The Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse. That’s further than the circumference of the Moon and the diameter of the Earth! His mission was to: raise awareness about child sexual abuse; encourage international collaboration between child protection organisations; and advocate for the abolition of the Statute of Limitations, which prevents victims from initiating proceedings against abusers if too long a time has elapsed.


Millie’s Trust

Back in December 2014, I was honoured to host a basic training for Oireachtas Members on what to do if a child starts to choke or has another life-threatening emergency with my colleague Deputy Denis Naughten TD. The training was provided by Joanne and Dan Thompson who tragically last their baby daughter Millie following a choking incident in nursery in October 2013. They subsequently set up Millie's Trust, a UK charity that aims to make Paediatric First Aid training available to everyone. You can find out more about their charity here: 

We also met with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly TD, to discuss the inclusion of Paediatric First Aid training for child care settings in forthcoming review of regulations. I was delighted by the Minister’s statement in the Dáil on 25 February, where he said: “I am very anxious that all people working directly with children in the early year’s sector have an appropriate Paediatric First Aid qualification.” Minister Reilly also pointed out that there is presently no accredited award in Paediatric First Aid at any level in this country, an anomaly that he is anxious to have addressed.

National Pyjama Day 2015

Back in November 2014, as Chair of Early Childhood Ireland, I was delighted to join Keith Duffy and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly TD, at the announcement that Irish Autism Action would be the recipient charity for Early Childhood Ireland’s National Pyjama Day 2015, which took place on 6 March. 

The annual fundraiser is in its 12th year and has raised over 2 million euro for charities which help to enhance the lives of young children nationwide. This year alone an amazing €237,257.64 was raised for Irish Autism Action to:

  • Develop an awareness raising campaign
  • Develop training specifically tailored to meet the needs of the ECCE sector
  • Evaluate the Step A Head Pilot Programme

Here I am in my very fetching puppy pyjamas doing my bit by donating to National Pyjama Day. Every year Early Childhood Ireland strives to make National Pyjama Day the biggest and best to date. 

Make sure you get involved in next year’s fun event. Find out more here:

Stop Alcohol Industry Involvement in Public Health Campaigns

I have written two reports for the European Economic and Social Committee on Alcohol Related Harm and I have seen first-hand how the alcohol industry operates when I hear about the Diageo initiated and funded campaign to "Stop Out-of-Control Drinking" I can immediately identifyit as the latest attempt by the alcohol industry in Ireland to appear socially responsible about alcohol consumption on one hand, while continuing to obstruct progressive alcohol harm reduction strategies, including a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sport. What is “out-of-control-drinking” if not a clever narrative designed so that the majority of people, many of whom do engage in harmful drinking practices, to say "phew that's not me. I’m not OUT OF CONTROL".I agree with the World Health Organisation that the drinks industry should have no role in public health whether it is in campaigns of this nature or trying to access our school children through whatever costume they choose to wear.  If the drinks industry wishes it could give the funding at arm’s length without strings or influence but it does not choose this approach. I do not believe that industry initiatives like these are genuinely designed to tackle alcohol related harm. How can they be? To do so would be counterproductive to the pursuit of maximum profits. A good example of the inherent conflict of interest at play here is Diageo’s involvement in legal action against the Scottish Government for attempting to introduce minimum pricing legislation. 
Alcohol related harm is a public health issue not a PR issue.For this reason I have been active at the Health and Children Committee as we examine the heads of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.  It is no coincidence, in my opinion, that the drinks industry are reactivating their influence when at the same time we have the first opportunity in decades to really tackle alcohol related harm in Ireland.  I am focusing my energies on bringing this Bill into law.  

Gender Recognition Bill 2014

I actively participated in the energetic and robust debate around the passage of the Gender Recognition Bill 2014 through the Seanad in Jan/Feb. I led the call on the issue of gender recognition for trans* and intersex children and young people in my opinion piece in the Mirror on 2 February
The rights of trans* and intersex people, be they adults or children,  are fundamental human rights, encompassed in a number of international human rights  treaties and statements, essentially synopsised in the Yogyakarta Principles. Professor Michael O'Flaherty provided a very interesting commentary on this Bill and the Principles/international human rights obligations in the following Irish Times article
In terms of the human face and lived reality of the scenarios and situations I am concerned about the following Guardian article is very interesting
This YouTube Video, documenting the journey of a young female to male trans* child in Australia again really brings the reality of the child’s distinct vulnerability home
I remain genuinely concerned that the failure to make any provision for children under the age of 16 and the manner in which the 16-18 year old cohort of trans* and intersex children purport to be dealt with under the Bill will fall foul of the (Supreme Court pending) Constitutional amendment on children’s rights, which will place an onus on the Legislature to ensure:

  • the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration;
  • the views of the child are heard when key decisions are made about their lives;
  • the evolving capacity of the child is facilitated.

The amendments I tabled and their supporting arguments can be read in full in my Committee Stage contribution to the debate
I am committed to returning to this issue in the following weeks and in the meantime I hope to engage constructively with Officials in the Department of Social Protection to find a workable legislative solution to the shortcomings. 

Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015

I warmly welcome the enactment of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which represents the most important reform of child and family law, particularly with regard to diverse parenting situations and diverse family forms, in a generation. As somebody who has advocated for children’s rights for many many years it was a privilege to lend my voice and expertise in this legislative process. Throughout the debate I stressed the importance of the best interests of the child and the voice of the child being heard in decisions impacting their lives. I also spoke about the situation for unmarried fathers, who still do not enjoy automatic guardianship of their children. Please see my Second Stage contribution to the debate here 


Independent Group

Contact me

Senator Jillian van Turnhout,
Seanad Éireann,
Leinster House,
Kildare Street,
Dublin 2,

(01) 618 3375
+353 (0) 1 618 3375



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