'Clear' and 'robust' wording on children's rights amendment
THE PROPOSED children’s rights amendment to the Constitution will be “a strong robust article designed to enhance the constitutional protection of children from abusive situations”, Government sources said last night.
The wording agreed at Cabinet yesterday – and to be announced today – would, if approved by the electorate, “provide a clear instruction to judges from the Constitution to place a much greater focus on children”.
This would particularly include “the interests of children in cases that affect the critical elements of their lives”.
The referendum will take place on Saturday, November 10th, when, as usual, much of the balloting throughout the State will take place on school premises.
“It means children don’t have to be taken out of school,” a Government source said.
The wording is to be based on the “core principles” of the text published by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children in February 2010. In particular, it is expected to contain five elements in a single article. The first would recognise the natural and imprescriptible rights of children.
The second would be similar to the current article 42.5, which the amendment proposes to delete, relating to the State supplying the role of the family in exceptional cases. It is expected to contain a form of words making clear this intervention can take place irrespective of parents’ marital status.
The third element is likely to provide for the adoption of children whose parents, again irrespective of marital status, have failed for a period of time prescribed by law in their responsibility. It will also allow for voluntary placement for adoption, meaning married parents can consent for the first time to having their children placed for adoption.
The fourth part is expected to say the best interests of the child must be a “paramount” consideration in judicial and custody proceedings. The fifth element is expected to say that in such proceedings the views of children must be heard and taken into account, having regard to the child’s age and maturity.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald will brief Opposition leaders on the wording in meetings this morning, with a view to achieving all-party consensus.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy said: “We are still waiting to see the exact wording of the changes proposed for the Constitution, but I welcome the fact that there are indications that the wording will be along the lines of that agreed by the all-party committee during the last Dáil.”
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said his party was “disappointed we did not have prior sight and a longer opportunity to evaluate the Government’s proposed wording”. However, Government sources said changes could be proposed in the Oireachtas debate on the legislation.