Children's rights campaigners welcome result


Children’s rights campaigners have warmly welcomed the referendum result, describing it as an historic day for children.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said he was delighted by the outcome.

“We’re not going to wake up tomorrow morning and discover that every child in Ireland is suddenly healthier, happier and safer than they were yesterday. There’s a lot of work to be done. This is the start of the work, this is the first piece of the jigsaw. But it’s a really really important piece of the jigsaw.

He criticised the “ferocious scaremongering” carried out by the No side saying it didn’t surprise him in the slightest that people ended up alarmed and confused.

“I think there was a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety… There’s a lot of people very hard pressed in Ireland who are paying for the bailout, paying for the bank guarantee, feel now that they’re paying the pensions of bankers and so on and they’re damned if they’re going to vote yes to anything. And who’d blame them?

“In any event, we do social change slowly and carefully in Ireland. We don’t rush into it… I think in twenty years time if we go on to make the history that this enables us to make nobody will look back and say [it was a] very low turnout. It doesn’t matter.”

While welcoming the result, Irish Foster Care Association’s patron former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness said she would feel sorry if people voted no because “they had been made afraid by some rather spurious arguments”

“I never thought for a minute that we would get a huge majority,” she said.

Geoffrey Shannon, the Government rapporteur on child protection, described today as the most significant day in his professional life.

“I will forever remember this day because I think we have now removed those roadblocks that stand in the way of children having the best family life and it’s a real opportunity for a second chance,” he said.

“I think of the many children and families our child protection system has failed over the years [and] it’s a new beginning, it’s an acknowledgement of those for whom this amendment comes too late. It will refocus our child protection system. The State is now doing something to ensure children will not drift rudderless in our care system.”

He said passing the referendum was a clear statement from the people to politicians, judges and wider society about how children should be treated.

“I’m very optimistic and quite emotional after two decades campaigning for this…

This is a truly historic day for children”

Independent Senator Jillian van Turnhout, former chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said she was very emotional and very happy.

“It’s a historic day. I think it is interesting to look at the turnouts throughout the different constituencies and their link to the Yes/No side and I think we need to analyse a little bit more to understand where people’s reticence was to support children’s rights and get a deeper understanding [of that]. But let’s not take from today. It’s a great day for children’s rights in Ireland,” she said.

In relation to the Supreme Court decision last Thursday, Ms van Turnhout said it needed to be looked at when the full reasoned ruling is delivered on December 11th.

“I think the Government has questions to answer, the Attorney General has questions to answer but today is not the day for that.”

The Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan said she was disappointed the turnout hadn’t been higher.

“Probably in the fullness of time we’ll realise and understand the importance of today… It’s a really important day for children,” she said.

She said a number of people felt they hadn’t had enough information about the referendum.

“Lots of people felt they didn’t have enough information… It was a complex proposal in the sense that there were four articles being proposed and there are some very sensitive issues there that people were confused about I think.”

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