Children's referendum passed amid low turnout
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has welcomed the passing of the children's referendum by 57.4 per cent to 42.6 per cent.
“The passing of this amendment will help make childhood a good, secure and loving space for all our children,” Mr Kenny said in a statement. “It will also give hope, reassurance and confidence to parents, foster parents and vulnerable children.”
The proposed constitutional amendment looks at a number of areas of children’s rights including adoption, protection, State intervention in neglect cases and giving children a say in their own protection proceedings.
More than 3.1 million people were eligible to vote, but the low-key campaign failed to capture the public imagination. The turnout was just 33.5 per cent.
Despite the low turnout, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said it was a “historic day” for children’s rights in Ireland.
Asked about the Supreme Court decision last Thursday that found the Government’s information booklet and website “not fair, equal or impartial” or whether Attorney General Máire Whelan had advised against using some of the material, Ms Fitzgerald said it had been the Government’s intention “at all times” to comply with the McKenna judgment.
“All of the normal processes were followed by my own Department and by the Office of the Attorney General in relation to that.”
She said the issue of Saturday voting “needed to be examined.”
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the Supreme Court decision would be addressed when the detailed judgment is delivered on December 11th.
“I think there’s been a lot of issues discussed in the lead up to the referendum and I’ve no doubt there’s going to be a lot of discussion later on. But the central and most important thing that we have achieved is a sea change in our constitution in the manner in which we treat children, recognise that they have rights and the obligation given to our courts and social services to truly listen to the voice of the child,” he said.
Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael’s director of elections for the referendum, said he would have liked if the turnout had been higher.
“We did expect the margin to be a little bit wider but we’ve had plenty of low turnouts before in referenda and we’ve had a lot of referenda that were a lot tighter and in the fullness of time people forget those details,” he said.
“What history will record is that the Irish people voted today to enshrine children’s rights in our constitution and that makes it a historic day and a day for celebration.”