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The Mayor Necessities
Andrew Montague is coming to the end of his one-year term as Lord Mayor of Dublin. In a refreshingly candid interview, the Labour councillor talks about God, love, addiction, the Dublin Bike scheme which he initiated – and why we should have an elected Lord Mayor for the city.
Olaf Tyaransen, 27 Jun 2012
You hit the headlines yesterday over calling for working-class women to be tested for alcohol use during pregnancy. What was all that about?
That was a totally untrue article, written by the Herald, and I’ve asked them to retract it. We have a commission here on anti-social behaviour and we were looking into the issue of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It’s a big mouthful, but it’s children whose central nervous systems, their brains, have been affected by their mother drinking during pregnancy. Some research shows somewhere between 30 and 70% of the prison population have FASD – so it’s a serious problem. If you are born like this, there is no recovery, you are affected for life. People with FASD find it very hard to concentrate, so something like school is really difficult for them. A lot of them will end up in the criminal justice system. Some research shows 30% of prisoners, some research shows up to 70% of our prisoners, are affected by this. We need to take this really seriously.
So what can you do?
There’s no cure for it, but you can help modify behaviour. Children in better-off areas tend to get treatment or tend to get help for this, whereas children in poorer areas tend to get less help, and therefore the outcomes for children in disadvantaged areas are worse. So what I called for is that children should be screened for FASD in disadvantaged areas because we need to help those children.
Not the mothers.
Not the mothers! And the Herald quoted me as saying children should be screened, but their headline was something like ‘Lord Mayor calls for pregnant mothers in disadvantaged areas to be tested’. It was an outrageous story. People calling me a fascist. It was just outrageous and I’ve written to them asking for an apology and a retraction.
Is austerity working?
I think austerity is damaging our economy and is damaging our society – but the alternatives appear to be worse. I think, we’re borrowing €44 million a day, just to pay our way and nobody is willing to lend us that money except for the European Union. So I think we have no choice and it’s not the European Union being nasty to us. There is an issue with our bank debt, and remember the Labour Party was the only party to vote against the bank guarantee. Sinn Féin supported the bank guarantee. Pearse Doherty talked about pulling on the Irish jersey to support the bank guarantee. So we’re now stuck with the situation where we have these debts. We need to re-negotiate that, but we’re in a very weak negotiating position because we have to borrow €44 million tomorrow, and if I have to borrow €44 million from somebody tomorrow I can hardly tell them, “By the way, I’m not going to pay you back the money I owe you!”