Bishops' view welcome - Varadkar


RELIGIOUS STANCE:MINISTER FOR Transport Leo Varadkar has said he would welcome a statement from the Catholic bishops outlining their position on the children’s rights referendum which will take place on Saturday week.

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which is the assembly of bishops, has yet to give an official response to the proposed constitutional amendment but will do so ahead of polling day, according to the Catholic Communications Office.

Mr Varadkar, Fine Gael’s director of elections for the referendum, said he welcomed Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin’s personal endorsement of the proposal. The Minister was asked if he thought the bishops should offer formal guidance to Catholics on the matter soon.

“I would very much welcome the views of the bishops. They’re entitled to give their view and if they want to give their view that of course is welcome,” Mr Varadkar said.

“But even leaving that aside, if you look at the number of organisations that have come out in favour, that is really overwhelming . . . Almost any organisation that works with children has come out in favour of the referendum and that’s the most important endorsement to us.”

He said “Catholic voters” should not be concerned about any aspect of the referendum and stressed that the constitutional Article 41, which relates to the family, would remain “intact and unamended”.

Mr Varadkar criticised the comments of former Independent MEP Kathy Sinnott, a prominent No campaigner, who claimed on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Tuesday that a child in care was six times more likely to die than one who remained within the family.

He said Ms Sinnott was wrong. “Obviously we very much respect the views of our opponents but I am a little bit concerned about some of the No campaign assertions . . . I really would appeal to everyone who is taking part in this referendum and engaging with the debate to do so on the basis of facts and not on scaremongering,” he said.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the launch of Fine Gael’s online campaign video in Dublin yesterday along with Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald.

Separately, the Bar Council has decided to advocate a Yes vote in the referendum. Chairman of the Bar Council David Nolan SC said the proposed amendment would strengthen the Constitution by recognising explicitly that children had rights.

“No constitutional amendment can ever eradicate abuse. But this amendment, if passed, will at least play an important part in making the future of many children in the State better than the past. That is why we are calling for a Yes vote,” he said.