Fathers' group quits alliance


OPPOSITION:FATHERS’ RIGHTS campaigners opposed to the children’s rights referendum have left the Children’s Rights Alliance in protest at the organisation’s support for the proposed constitutional amendment.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald yesterday urged those campaigning for fathers’ rights to back the referendum, saying their rights would be improved if it was passed when voters go to the poll on Saturday, November 10th.

“I’m concerned that fathers’ groups who say they are promoting fathers’ rights are saying they’re concerned about the referendum when in fact the opposite [should be] the case,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“I would have thought it would be in the interests of the nonmarital father, who we do know obviously has difficulties under the Irish Constitution in terms of asserting rights, to support the referendum.”

Ms Fitzgerald was speaking at a cross-party event at which women TDs and Senators came together to call for a Yes vote.

Ray Kelly of Unmarried and Separated Families of Ireland (USFI) confirmed the referendum had prompted his group to resign from the coalition of more than 100 organisations that make up the Children’s Rights Alliance.

“The proposed amendment doesn’t go far enough. It’s a golden opportunity wasted to give children an equal right to have a father. It’s an erosion of parental rights and it’s actually putting the State in the position where it’s more powerful than the parent,” Mr Kelly said.

“We don’t feel that the referendum is actually about children’s rights. Looking at the wording we don’t see anywhere it’s actually giving more rights. It’s actually an adoption referendum.”

A spokeswoman for the Children’s Rights Alliance said the USFI had expressed concern about the referendum but had not provided formal notification that it was leaving the coalition.

She said the alliance had always had a positive working relationship with USFI, “and we firmly believe that reform is needed to support a child’s right to know and have contact with both of their parents, regardless of their marital status”.

The chairwoman of the Legal Aid Board, Muriel Walls, a partner at McCann Fitzgerald solicitors, said the situation of unmarried fathers would be improved if the referendum was passed.