Creche Test Dummies

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From top: Painting at the Abbey Day Nursery which has been closed by TUSLA in the wake of the Hyde and Seek scandal; Terry McMahon

Sickened having to write this. Everyday when I picked my daughter (above) up from the not-for-profit nursery in the city the children would shout in unison, “Be the monster!” I’d have to put all the crap of the day aside and become their imaginary monster.

The kids would scream and run around that huge downstairs room until everyone was an exhausted mess. None more so than me. Then they’d shout, “Go to sleep!” I’d slump to the ground and curl up in pretend slumber.

Except it often wasn’t pretend. I’ve had four kids attend this nursery over the years so, as I’d shut my eyes and grimace at the pain in my knees, I’d think, “I am literally too old for this.”

The kids would tentatively poke their sleeping monster. Their excited giggles would become high-pitched squeals until the monster would growl. They’d scream and back off, only to become braver and advance once again.

Their imaginary monster would roar and stand up to pursue the screaming lunatics all over again. It was exhausting. It was worse than working out in a gym. But as my daughter watched her deadbeat dad with pride it was often the highlight of my day.

Like many others creches in the city that not-for-profit nursery is a profound place. Located across from The Garden of Remembrance it is called The Abbey Day Nursery, and for the last 26  years it has been run by one of the most remarkable women I have ever met, Deirdre Moore.

This gift of a human being has done more for children than can ever be quantified and she’s just about to burst open those beautiful nursery doors once again to welcome all nationalities from all walks of life in Dublin’s north inner city.

Except the nursery doors have just been bolted shut.

By an incomprehensible force.

By an organisation increasingly under disturbing scrutiny.

By the national child protection agency TUSLA.

Under the leadership of Deirdre Moore, these children at The Abbey Day Nursery learn much more than the necessary basic skills. They learn to be non-judgmental of other cultures. Of other races. Of each other.

At my last count, there were nine different nationalities shouting, “Be the monster,” in that glorious downstairs room. Yet every one of them played without prejudice.

They learn that forming deep-rooted friendships with the ‘foreign’ on both sides becomes just as natural as loving the ‘local’ in each other. Seeds are sown that blossom into a life-long fearlessness of the ‘other.’

But there was another creche across town that developed the darkness within. A private for-profit creche that fostered fear in children. A cancer that extorted cash from parents who paid to believe their kids were safe.

If a fiction writer had named this creche they’d be accused of being too on-the-nose in their comic book evil description.

Located on Dublin’s fancy Botanic Road, the creche that would become a national scandal after an undercover sting on PrimeTime Investigates is called Hyde and Seek.

A woman who has brought horror to children’s lives and nightmares their parents, the woman behind Hyde and Seek creches has made profits from the misery she has caused to the tune of millions.

TUSLA did a little mooching around, imposed a few easy-to-pay fines.

The Abbey Day nursery is shut down but no doubt at the soon-to-be rebranded Hyde and Seek everybody will be welcome. As long as your folks have cash. Lots of cash. And no conscience.

TUSLA is now using the righteous outcry over the scandal of Hyde and Seek as leverage to investigate other nurseries.

They arrived at The Abbey Day Nursery and declared the nursery needs an alarm. Nothing wrong with that. There are multiple alarms in the building already.

But this alarm is different. TUSLA are demanding that a not-for-profit nursery which has been operating without incident for twenty-six-years pay ten grand for an alarm.

TUSLA has also determined that the children need an outside playing area. In the city centre. Despite the vast open space of The Garden of Remembrance being fifty feet away.

THE Abbey Day nursery doesn’t have ten grand. The Abbey Day Nursery doesn’t have an outdoor space. It has a huge room downstairs where happy children run with unfettered freedom. It has staff and a leader with more heart than TUSLA could ever comprehend.

It has a twenty-six-year legacy of legacy of inspiring countless children to rise above their limits.

The Abbey Day is not the only not-for-profit nursery to be punished for the actions of a private creche.

Talk to parents. It’s happening all over the country. And when enough not-for-profit nurseries are shut down the only option for parents will be to find some way of sourcing non-existent finance to send their children to a private creche. Oh, wait, perhaps that was the plan all along.

No matter what you are found guilty of in Ireland, if you are in the correct club we will reward profiteering mercenaries making money from the vulnerable. We will reward the carnage created by organisations that should be under criminal investigation on multiple fronts.

We will reward the cancerous policies of a Government that is willing to use the lives of children as pawns for political gain.

We will reward anyone who makes it clear that Ireland is no place for any child who does not have the necessary socio-economic stamp of approval to participate in that costly but cosy club.

Meanwhile, we will continue to punish cash-strapped parents who want their children to have the opportunity to engage with other children of all nationalities in a structured and beneficial environment that is not driven by commerce.

We will punish singe parents who will never be able to afford private childcare. We will punish staff whose salary was already too low for the incredible work they were doing but who now have nothing. We will punish a woman who should be sainted instead of fired.

But nobody will say a word.

Those beautiful children have yet to learn that there are profiteers at the door willing to rip away their future. Every day I picked my daughter up from that nursery those kids shouted, “Be the monster!” In their innocence they didn’t know that the monster is no longer imaginary.

They don’t know how real it is. How dangerous it is. Because, for reasons that defy comprehension, their paralysed parents won’t stop it.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

23 thoughts on “Creche Test Dummies

    1. phil

      That part of the story I find totally believable , when the state regulate, the can be quite specific, its probably easier for them to pick the the no. 1 solution , and that may be costly …

      Ill give a different example, I once asked an insurance company , about their definition of ‘monitored alarm’ , my alarm sends me a txt , and I then check my CCTV on my phone, if its bad Id ring the Gardai or fire brigade , if its minor Ill action it myself. I was told thats not a monitored alarm , monitored alarm means ‘eircom phone watch type ‘, where a company rings me , then I action it …

    2. Termagant

      Presumably it’s an alarm system

      Alternatively – it’s gougery like the mandatory €600 emergency off switch the lad quoting me for solar tried to sell me

  1. millie vanilly strikes again

    I read this in Alan Partridge’s voice and suddenly everything made sense.

    Not a bad article Terry. Though, maybe tone down the… drama? Can I call it that? I almost expected you to put ‘dun dun DUN’ for dramatic emphasis at one point. The article doesn’t need it. If anything, it takes away from the message of the piece, for me anyways.

  2. Termagant

    Hang on, my question about garda vetting was a sincere one, bring it back

    You’re not meant to have the kind of access that Terry is describing here (wearily idyllic though his story is) to a childcare facility without garda vetting, if the people running the place are letting unvetted people run riot that could speak to a history of infractions against Tusla regulations that finally tipped over into a symbolic “get your entire act together” ultimatum.

    1. ____

      Ah here.

      Garda vetting is required for people who work there/have some kind of role there. Not for a parent picking up their kid. Appropriate interaction with other kids isn’t forbidden, why would it be? They’re the kids friends and its important to take an interest in your kids socialisation. The requirement will be for there to be (vetted) staff supervising at all times (which presumably there were, but why would he have included it in the story? Its a given.)

  3. bisted

    …but this is El Tel…how dare you suggest that he can’t walk into any creche and play dead…he’s an actor ffs…

  4. Nilbert

    “TUSLA is now using the righteous outcry over the scandal of Hyde and Seek as leverage to investigate other nurseries.”

    How dare they!!

  5. Optimus Grime

    I’m usually the first to stick the boot into Terry but on this one I’ll hold fire because he is 100% right. The State loves to confuse regulation with pigeonholing and when things don’t fit neatly into a box they clamp down on it. Especially when it comes to kids! A public health nurse recently referred my son to a consultant after his three year developmental check up for being 1.5cm too small. I queried the reason for the referral and all I got in response was “just in case” I also pointed out that at 5’8 I’m not the tallest man in the world either and genetics may have something to do with it but alas no lets waste time going to a consultant for stumpiness

  6. A Person

    Its always about Terry. Why can’t he just write an article that doesn’t involve him. I’ve had 3 kids that went through creches. Delighted that they were all treated right. But if the HSE state that your kid’s creches were not fit for purpose, then take out of there. But Terry, tootle off with this self indulgent article. If you are really concerned mind your own kids. And btw how many films have you made?

  7. Mimi

    A tad dramatic, no? For once it would be great to read a well researched article on the crisis in the early years sector in Ireland, not this kind of rubbish.

  8. Mgt62

    There has been government capital funding available for the past 3 years to install outdoor play areas, fire alarms etc .. most of which Goes to community daycare centers. Private providers must pay wages from fees which are subsidised by government to allow parents pay less. Community Creche’s or non profit must never run at a loss and historically wages are better. Why did this place not avail of the 50k they would’ve been entitled to for updating their service .. facts before drama

  9. Anna Regan

    What are people really focusing on when reading this? For me it is the fact that our childcare sector is falling apart with creches running, that are seen as big profit making businesses rather than creating a loving, inviting safe place away from home for one of our most vulnerable members of our society, while not for profit organisations are to the best of their abilities trying to create exactly that and are been forced to close because of a lack of funding needed to cover day to day running costs and staffing costs. The government needs to make a change now before this type of service is nonexistent.

  10. Mary Moloney

    I find this article disturbing on many fronts, but I am limiting my response to the dreadful statement ‘As long as your folks have cash. Lots of cash. And no conscience’. This has to be anathema to the many thousands of parents in Ireland who want the best for their young child and, pay the equivalent of a second mortgage from their after tax income to pay for their children’s early education and care. Tell these parents that they don’t have a conscience. I do not know of one parent who would willingly leave their child in a setting where they felt their child was at risk. Obviously, the author’s opinion is influenced by his experience of a well run, quality community setting. Well done to the setting involved. However, the article pits community and private provision against each other while overlooking the fact that excellent provision exists in both spheres. The reality is that the same issues permeate both community and private provision. For far too long, the ECEC sector has suffered from insufficient investment, where many staff cannot earn a living wage, no longer want to work in a sector where they are undervalued, underappreciated and under paid. Sustainability is an issue right across the sector in Ireland. Quality costs, it cannot be achieved on a shoe string budget. All children deserve and have a right to the very best early childhood education and care. It is time for government to take heed, to transform early childhood jobs and finance the ECEC system

  11. Gallagher

    As a private provider I am utterly insulted by this article. You are obviously uneducated in the area of childcare as if you knew anything you would know that the staff and management in not for profit community pre schools are often far better paid than those in private services. You might also know that community services can avail of far more and far bigger government grants for things such as fire alarms and equipment that private providers have to pay for themselves.
    I have not raised my rates since opening 5 years ago and I have not availed of 1c of our governments grants.

    If you are going to write an article Terry, please do your research and be fair.

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