Children back referendum at debate

Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 00:00

Young people voted in favour of the children’s referendum at a debate hosted by the Ombudsman for Children yesterday.

Almost 200 secondary school pupils from five counties attended the Ombudsman for Children’s “Big Debate”, chaired by broadcaster Joe Duffy, in which pupils argued for and against the amendment.

Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan said it was “interesting and probably remarkable that as a nation we have held many debates about the referendum and yet we haven’t heard from children themselves”. She added: “While I know they are not voters, that doesn’t mean they don’t have opinions or views on the issues which are up for debate.”

Speaking in favour of the amendment, Alison Spillane of Scoil Chríost Rí, Portlaoise, said the referendum gave people the opportunity to change an article that had “failed” Irish children.

It was an article which, “if changed in the past, could have potentially saved lives”. Children were “mentioned four times, while property is mentioned 38 times in the Constitution”, she said: “I think that statistic speaks for itself.”

Speaking against the amendment, Samuel Doyle of St Macartan’s College, Monaghan, argued that it was not needed, as children’s rights were already sufficiently protected by the State and by institutions such as the Ombudsman for Children. He said it was “a great irony” that in a vote concerning children’s safety, protection and rights, “not one person classified by the State as a child has any actual say”.

Other speakers included Stephen Corrigan of St Macartan’s College, Monaghan; Megan Flanagan, Claudia Keane and Katie Ramsbottom of Scoil Chríost Rí, Portlaoise; and Sarah O’Dea and Andrew McCarthy of St John Bosco Community College, Kildysart.

Young people at the event voted 84 to 57 in favour of the amendment. “It was brilliant to hear what the young people had to say,” Ms Logan said.