Broad welcome for wording of proposed children's amendment
THE GOVERNMENT looks set to secure a comfortable majority for its children’s rights amendment to the Constitution in a referendum on November 10th, based on initial reaction to the wording announced yesterday. Opposition parties and other groups were broadly positive in their response to it.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that for the first time in the history of the State, the people were being asked “to insert an article in the Constitution, dedicated entirely to children as individuals, as citizens in their own right”.
“I hope there can be cross-party support for this development,” he told a news conference at Government Buildings.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said: “This amendment proposes to include a new stand-alone article in our Constitution, article 42A, titled ‘Children’, which will greatly inform the courts’ consideration of the legal framework for decision-making regarding children.”
Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy said later that his party would be calling for a Yes vote, following the “long awaited” publication of the text.
He said the amendment was “almost identical” to that proposed by Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews in his former role as minister of state for children. Government sources pointed out that the formula proposed by Mr Andrews would have inserted children’s rights into article 45 of the Constitution, which cannot be the subject of court adjudication.
Sinn Féin’s spokesman on children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the proposed wording was stronger than that put forward by Mr Andrews. “We’re positively disposed towards it, there’s no doubt in the world around that,” the Cavan-Monaghan TD added.
Independent Senator Jillian van Turnhout, former chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, congratulated Ms Fitzgerald for publishing the wording. “I will now take a few days to consult with legal counsel and consider the full implications of the wording before I make my position known,” she added.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy said she was happy to support the referendum. “Minister Fitzgerald has clearly given extensive thought, time and commitment to producing this vital document and I think the wording is a positive move towards finally defining the rights of Ireland’s children,” she said.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said it was “broadly satisfied” with the wording, but questioned the apparent exemption of State agencies from the requirement to consider the voice of the child when proceedings are taken against them.The National Youth Council of Ireland said: “We are delighted that the detailed wording has finally been published and now look forward to engaging in consultation with our members on the issue.”