Cissy's note: This is one of the best articles I've read in a long while. I discovered it this morning, thanks to @Jane Mulcahy It's written by Fintan O'Toole and published in The Irish Times. Here are some excerpts:
When the first Dáil met in Dublin on January 21st, 1919, it was the most representative democratic assembly ever to have met in Ireland. On that first day, it passed a document called the Democratic Programme, a pithy statement about what the republic it had just declared would look like.
Remarkably, it did something very rare for its time: it placed children at the heart of the way the new state was supposed to imagine itself. Not the rhetorical “children of the nation” of the 1916 Proclamation but real, ordinary kids. It said that children would be the priority. And it set down a set of criteria by which the republic would wish itself to be judged.
Those criteria are the things that a child needs in order to grow up with security and dignity.
The words that made this radical statement of national purpose are few and plain:
“It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland.”