Keith Duffy speaks about the end of his time at Irish Autism Action

The Boyzone singer and actor discusses National Pyjama Day and his time as a patron of the charity

Keith Duffy speaks about the end of his time at Irish Autism Action

Keith Duffy

March 6 marks Early Childhood Ireland's 12th annual National Pyjama Day.

The event aims to get over 50,000 children and ECI staff wearing their pjs to raise €200,000 for Irish Autism Action.

This morning Pat Kenny spoke to Keith Duffy, who is standing down after a decade as a patron of IAA, and Rita Melia, Programme Manager of ECI.

Melia explained that more investment is needed in early childhood services:

“There is a particular need in supporting children with additional needs. There has been very little or no investment in this area.”

She also outlined the plans to invest any money raised into autism awareness, to support people working in services to include children with special needs, and to evaluate a pilot step ahead programme.


Coming to the end of a long period as a patron of the IAA, Duffy spoke about the importance of the campaign:

12 years later I'm still very passionate about it. I've seen first hand what difference appropriate intervention can make to these children.

He contrasted current practices with those of 10-15 years ago, when “children were not receiving any interventions at appropriate times” and insisted government investment now would save money spent on special needs education in years to come:

If you can look at the big picture, the amount of money we can save is huge.”

His time working and fundraising with IAA has been a whirlwind of marathon cycling, mountaineering, triathlons and golf events, and will soon see a football match featuring One Direction's Niall Horan.

Duffy criticised the need for parents to choose between a free pre-school year and home tuition grants, calling it “absolutely disgraceful” and said that it jeopardises a child's interaction with their peers:

The inclusion is very very important... the more inclusion they have at that earlier stage, the better. I just cannot understand the thinking or the brains behind that. There's none.”

Let's try and give them the tools they need to survive in an ordinary national school.”

Duffy's decided to step down from his volunteer position to focus on his family and career, but he suggested that it might be the last of his work with IAA.

Unfortunatley over time it has effected my carreer... [and] taken me away from certain family eveants and functions. I have to put my family and career first.

I still believe there's an awful lot of work to be done. I'm taking 8/9 months off and I might come back in some form or fashion to help again.”

Early Childhood Ireland's National Pyjama Day will take place on March 6. For those unable to participate, you can donate €2 by texting 'pjday' to 50300.