Earlier this month, a group of new mums along with Bríd Smith TD and other party TD's, campaign organisation Uplift and the National Women's Council of Ireland presented a petition with over 28,000 signatures to Leo Varadkar, asking for an extension to maternity leave. Varadkar said he would consider extending maternity leave, but has yet to make a decision on the matter.
The women understand that there are difficulties with changing the legislation at the moment. However, they stressed that changes have been made to other schemes, such as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, on an administrative basis, pending legislation later in the year.
The women said today: “When will you answer them, Leo? What are you waiting for? Over 28,000 of us refuse to step down and we are now demanding an answer. Where is our place in your Roadmap to Recovery?
"You have already waited while women had their babies without their partners or loved ones present. You have waited while women faced new motherhood sometimes alone, without family or professional support. You have waited while newborn babies have had countless developmental checks, vital scans, hospital appointments and even vaccinations cancelled or delayed. You have waited while childcare facilities have turned new babies away amidst fears of their reopening and survival."
They stressed, "Temporarily extend maternity leave and maternity benefit in light of the COVID crisis! We need an answer, Leo. Stop leaving us waiting.”
Campaign organiser Agnes Graholska added: “We’re being ignored. We’ve been made to feel like we don’t matter, kicked down the road between departments and politicians. But we’re just mothers and babies who need an answer. It’s an absolute insult to be told now to go to the Department of Justice when we’ve been trying to get a meeting with the Minister for Justice for three months. He’s ignored us, now Leo is trying to wash his hands off us too."
Speaking today, Shae Flanagan from Uplift said: “For the last three months, the campaign group has been shuffled between the Departments of Employment and Social Protection, the Department of Justice and Equality and now Leo Varadkar is once again re-directing them to the Department of Justice. This isn’t how democracy should be done at the best of times and definitely not when there’s a global pandemic that’s affecting new mothers ability to care for their families."
The mums have called for a three-month extension of maternity leave and benefit due to a lack of childcare support and unavailability of grandparents' and family support during the lockdown.