Children's vote rushed before budget cuts, says No coalition

Thu, Nov 8, 2012, 00:00

An alliance of campaigners against the children’s rights referendum has said Saturday’s vote has been hurried so it could take place before cuts affecting children are introduced in next month’s budget.

“It’s very important that the people be aware that this referendum is being rushed before the next budget. That budget is going to have probably cuts in social welfare and the children’s allowance,” said Richard Greene, leader of the Christian Solidarity Party.

“This is how this Government cares for children. The referendum is being deliberately rushed before the austerity programme really bites.”

The State has limited power to remove children from their families in some cases and the threshold for intervention in “exceptional” circumstances will be lowered if voters accept the proposed constitutional amendment.

Bullying

Mr Greene said granting increased power to the State to intervene in families would be like having “a mini troika” in every home.

He said parents’ authority over their teenage children would be diminished in the event of a Yes vote.

“It could see the law deciding, for example, how far parents may monitor text messages or internet use to protect their children from bullying.”

He conceded it would take a “miracle” for the No side to win, given that all the political parties in Leinster House were advocating a Yes vote, but added that he believed in miracles.

In a Christian Solidarity booklet distributed at a vote No event yesterday, Mr Greene described the referendum as “a Trojan horse for abortion”.

Parents For Children spokeswoman Maria Mhic Mheanmain said the State would only be held to account for its past failures if people voted No this weekend.

“If parents vote No it will be a clear message to the State that we do not trust you with our children and want to be able to protect them from you,” she said.

Ms Mhic Mheanmain also warned of upcoming budget cuts: “Expect to see in the not too distant future attacks on child benefit, cutting of services for children with special needs and so on and the plunging of more and more children into poverty as this Government’s weapon of austerity is wielded against children.”

Solicitor Malachy Steenson criticised what he said was the limited media coverage of the campaign.

“Much more coverage is being given to the US presidential election, which is of little relevance to the vast majority of people in this country and particularly the people who will be affected by this referendum,” he said.

Meanwhile, foster parents and their representatives reacted angrily to columnist John Waters’s suggestion that money was part of their motivation for taking children into their care.

Scared

The Irish Foster Care Association’s patron, former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, said during a press conference in Dublin in the morning that she disagreed strongly with Mr Waters’s stance .

“The very idea that foster parents are doing it for the money is extraordinary. It’s kind of hard to believe that anyone would suggest that,” she said.

The association’s chief executive, Diarmuid Kearney, said: “How dare John Waters suggest that they are doing it for the money. How dare he.”

Fine Gael TD Jim Daly said Mr Waters should apologise for his comments on RTÉ’s Frontline show on Monday night.

Two people who grew up in State care, Wayne Dignam and Michelle Sheehan, spoke about their experiences and called for a Yes vote.

Mr Dignam urged voters not to be “scared by what you hear from the No side”.

Ms Sheehan said she thought her life would have been better if she could have been adopted by her foster parents at an early age.