Referendum mainly a stunt but I'll still be voting Yes
There is a bit which does make a difference, an important difference, to a tiny number of children. It provides that children of married parents who “have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require” may be adopted.
The bit about children being entitled to be heard in court is more blather. This entitlement could have been provided by law at any time and does not require a constitutional amendment.
When Bertie Ahern first committed his government to a constitutional amendment on children’s rights he spoke of including in the Constitution a provision including an echo of the 1916 Proclamation about “cherishing the children of the nation equally”.
Almost certainly had Bertie remained around he would not have delivered on this because Department of Finance officials and a clutch of lawyers would have warned him of the “dangers” of such a proposal: that at some stage the Supreme Court might give such a provision some real meaning, by declaring that the State’s neglect of children in poverty, for instance, was a breach of that provision.
And it is precisely because the Government parties want to have the flexibility to deny children equality in society, that nothing resonant of that is included.
The campaign slogans “All children matter” and the one about children “being heard as well as seen” are bogus. The policies of this Government (and of all previous governments) are testament to the belief that all children do not matter or at least that some matter more than others. And as for being heard: the voices of very many will never be heard, not just as children but throughout their lives, for those are the inevitable consequences of the policies of all governments.
And as for caring about the abuse of children: how could it be that when there was a foot-and-mouth scare in 2001, there was a massive mobilisation of the people of Ireland to prevent this happening, but when around the same time evidence emerged (in the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland report of 2002) that about 150,000 people had been raped in childhood, there was only the most minimal response?
But there is that marginal advantage in the proposed amendment permitting the adoption of children whose parents are married and because of that, very reluctantly, I will be voting Yes.