A FATHER of a deaf Cork boy has been hailed as an “inspiration to all parents of children with additional needs” after he spoke on national radio about feeling like he has failed his son.
Sergeant Andrew Geary from Ballyhooly spoke on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday morning about how his 12-year-old deaf son Calum recently told Andrew and his wife Helen that he would not be able to get a job because of his deafness.
Andrew said he himself feels like a failure because “my son is so wanted inside the front door of my house, but when he steps outside that front door, this country that I love with my heart and soul, doesn’t want my son.”
However, Fine Gael’s Michael Carrigy raised the interview in the Seanad and said: “He made a statement that as a country he felt that Ireland does not cherish his child and that he had been a failure as a father. I want to say one thing to Andrew, which is coming from a father of a child with additional needs as well, that he is by no means a failure but that I honestly believe he has been an inspiration to all parents of children with additional needs in the way he spoke...on the national radio.”
Senator Carrigy said that following the interview, he read the 1916 Proclamation, particularly the reference to cherishing all of the children of the nation.
He continued: “It made me think. I asked myself whether we as a country cherish children. I honestly believe the answer is ‘No’. We are in the Decade of Centenaries celebrations, and we will celebrate 100 years since the signing of the Treaty next year.
"I felt that this was a poignant moment on our national radio and I want to say to that gentleman that he has opened up a conversation that we need to expand on to ensure that as legislators, as a country and as a State, we can say that we cherish all of the children of the nation equally.”
His Fine Gael colleague, Cork’s Senator Jerry Buttimer, said he knows Sergeant Geary, adding: “He is a tremendous father, a tremendous public servant and a huge and profoundly important advocate for his son, Callum. I commend him for his work.”
Fianna Fáil’s Senator Mark Daly said he had met Sgt Geary through his work on the Irish Sign Language Bill.
He added: “It is not acceptable that, 100 years and more after the Proclamation referred to ‘cherishing all the children of the nation equally’, the Senator (Carrigy), Andrew Geary and many others have to fight for their children to have equal access to education and services.”
His party colleague, Malcolm Byrne, described the interview with Sgt Geary as one that “stops you in your tracks”.
He added: “We should celebrate the contribution of deaf people and those with hearing difficulties to Irish society, but we need a broader debate around the supports from the education system. Crucially, part of the discussion was around the employment of those with disabilities. Having Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, in for a debate on that matter would be useful.”
Fine Gael’s Regina Doherty said it is “absolutely abhorrent that any parent in this country would see himself or herself as a failure because of either the distribution of services or the lack of services for any child in this country.”
She continued: “Again, we have a long way to go. It is interesting that, in listening to the concerns raised here every week, they are usually about the lack of services for women and children in this country. This should make us more mindful of how we spend our euros as a nation.”