With this is mind, the Irish Green Party prioritised early education during their time in Government between 2007 and 2011. A major success was the introduction of a year’s free pre-schooling for all children in Ireland. Known as the “Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)” scheme, it which was described at the time as a major advancement in ensuring equality at the most important developmental time of a child’s life. It is available to all children in Ireland, regardless of income.
The scheme cost in the region of €170 million a year, and was warmly welcomed by children’s NGOs at the time. Launched in 2009, by 2011 it had a virtually 100% uptake of eligible children in its first year. At a time when the Irish Government was being forced to introduce massive cutbacks in spending to the recession, this was projected as a crucial investment in the future of Ireland’s economy and society.