A judge has stated that children "might as well be weeds on the side of the road" if a parent doesn’t provide for them and ensure that they get an education.
Judge Mary Larkin made her comment at Kilrush District Court where she warned a mother of two school-shy children that she faces spending time in prison if her children’s attendance at education doesn’t dramatically improve.
One of the children, a 16-year-old girl, had a 100 per cent absence rate and missed all available school days in 5th year in school before leaving school for Youthreach last Summer.
Solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA), Kevin Sherry said that the girl’s school attendance has been ‘horrendous’ and ‘dire’.
Mr Sherry said that the girl had an 82 per cent absence rate in Junior Cert and is in danger of losing her Youthreach placement after missing 60pc of days.
Solicitor for the mother, Patrick Moylan told the court that his client’s daughter just wouldn’t go to school for her and the mother has been doing the best she can.
In response, Judge Mary Larkin said the mother "can go to jail or get that child to school. It is as simple as that. She has to prioritise this. She has done nothing about it”.
Judge Larkin said: “I take the view that if you go to the trouble of having children, you have to provide for them and make sure that they have a minimal education.
“Otherwise what’s the point in having them? They might as well be weeds on the side of the road."
Judge Larkin told the mother - in her early 30s - that “your child will have no education, no capacity to go on in life, limited opportunity about getting a job if she doesn’t have an education".
Mr Moylan said that his client was pleading guilty to a prosecution initiated by TUSLA — the Child and Family Agency concerning her children’s poor school attendance record.
Mr Sherry said that the penalty for such an offence is a fine of €1,000 or one month in jail.
Mr Sherry said that now that the girl is 16 “she is effectively outside the jurisdiction of the court and we are seeking that you finalise her case”.
Judge Larkin said that if she sees that the mother's daughter goes to Youthreach she would reduce any penalty she will impose
Judge Larkin said: “If she is not prepared to send her to Youthreach I intend to impose the full penalty.”
Mr Sherry said that the mother’s 11-year-old son has had 20 absences out of 73 school days in the latest school term and this followed a 52 per cent absence rate in the last school year.
Judge Larkin asked: “Is she going to send her child to school. It is simple as that?”
Mr Moylan replied “yes judge”.
Mr Moylan said: “He has been attending well since his recent illness.”
Judge Larkin pointed out that the local doctor would not provide a sick cert for the boy’s 10 days off “and the doctor not giving a certificate speaks for itself. As far as I am concerned, he wasn’t sick for the 10 days”.
Mr Moylan said that there will be 100pc school attendance by the boy between now and the next court date in February “sick or well, he will be there”.
Mr Sherry said that the issue here is that “the child does do well when he does attend school”.
Judge Larkin told the mother “you may not take the fact that your child needs an education seriously but this court does. If you don’t want to send your child to court I will insist that the CFA put in place a Supervision Order."
Judge Larkin said that the mother faces a month of jail or a €1,000 if school attendance doesn’t improve.
She said: “I assure you that I have no difficulty you serving a month in prison to make sure that you understand how important it is that your child gets an education.”
The father of the two children is also facing prosecution from the CFA regarding school attendance and Judge Larkin issued a bench warrant for his arrest after he failed to show in court.
Judge Larkin adjourned both cases to February 21st.