Call on Varadkar to relaunch FG Yes campaign

Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 01:00

A FINE Gael backbencher has written to Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar to warn that the children’s rights referendum could be lost because the Government’s campaign for a Yes vote lacks “momentum”.

Dublin Mid West TD Derek Keating told Mr Varadkar, the party’s director of elections for the campaign, that constituents were expressing concerns that the proposed constitutional amendment could give the State “excessive power” in relation to children.

“I am concerned with the fact that there is little or no momentum by people to endorse the children’s referendum because there is a strong view that it will be endorsed overwhelmingly by those who turn out to vote,” Mr Keating said.

He called on Mr Varadkar to consider relaunching the Fine Gael campaign, and said he was “seriously concerned” about what he had heard from prospective voters on the doorsteps during canvassing.

He said he was not satisfied enough was being done to secure a Yes vote. “I believe that this could have implications for the outcome if we do not have an overall significant majority endorsing the Government’s policy on children in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said “less adversarial” family courts would be developed if the referendum was passed. She said a Yes vote would allow for the reformation of the family court system.

Ms Fitzgerald, speaking in Galway yesterday, said more transparency was required in family courts.

“Clearly people worry about the in-camera rule, that everything is fairly secret. I’d like to see a situation, and I believe we will begin to see a situation, where there is more reporting of decisions,” she said.

“Now, clearly you don’t want to identify individuals, but I think we could benefit from more reporting of the kinds of decisions because there is a lack of information out there in the general public about our family court system.

“I believe we would all benefit from more transparency in decision-making in our family court system, while preserving anonymity, because it can be very dangerous to identify individuals in family law proceedings.”

Ms Fitzgerald also said it was important the courts ensured the views of young people were heard in all proceedings.

“I think the courts can be very innovative around that, but it is obviously for the courts. This referendum gives a strong endorsement in hearing the views of children . . . and that will have to be considered very carefully by everybody involved in our courts.”

Ms Fitzgerald delivered the keynote address at a public discussion on the children’s referendum at NUI Galway.

She said some opponents of the referendum were saying the family court system needed to be reformed.

“I would say it is important that we continue to develop the very best services that we can for families and children within the court system.

“That’s the reason that my colleague Alan Shatter is going to be looking at the establishment of family courts that are less adversarial than we have at present.

“And we need to have ongoing reform in relation to family law. But that’s not a reason to vote against the referendum.

“I would encourage you to vote for the referendum, and to give an even stronger endorsement in the whole area of children’s rights.”