FF criticises delay on wording of children's rights referendum
THE GOVERNMENT is at risk of losing the children’s rights referendum this autumn because it has not yet published the wording of the constitutional amendment, Fianna Fáil has warned.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has been involved in discussions on finalising the wording over the summer. She is hoping for cross-party support for the referendum, but Fianna Fáil spokesman for children Robert Troy suggested this could not be guaranteed.
“It is totally unacceptable that the Government has allowed the summer to pass without publishing the wording of the referendum on children’s rights,” Mr Troy said.
“Fianna Fáil wants to be in a position to pledge its full support to this important referendum, but we cannot do so blindly. A rushed referendum campaign will be riddled with problems and risks being hijacked by other issues . . .”
He was “genuinely fearful of a recurrence of what happened last October”, when the referendum on giving Oireachtas committees strong powers of investigation was lost.
No date for the children’s rights referendum has been announced, but the Government has insisted it will take place this autumn. It will be a prominent agenda item when the Cabinet meets on September 4th.
With the Dáil resuming on September 18th, the polling date could be set for late October, but the Cabinet may decide to opt for November.
Legislation providing for an amendment to the Constitution must pass through all stages in the Oireachtas before Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan can make an order setting polling day date. The Referendum act 1994 states “the polling day shall be not less than 30 days and not more than 90 days after the date of the order”.
Because the budget is announced in December, the Government traditionally tries to keep that month clear of other large-scale matters.
Related legislation on adoption is expected to be published along with the referendum wording.
Sinn Féin’s spokesman on children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said his party believed the referendum should go ahead immediately using the wording produced in February 2010 by the cross-party Oireachtas committee on the constitutional amendment on children.
Ms Fitzgerald and Mr Ó Caoláin were members of the committee chaired by then Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke, who warned two years ago that various groupings were joining forces to fight the referendum.
The committee proposed a rewrite of article 42 of the Constitution, which would recognise the rights of children as individuals, including the right of the child’s voice to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child.
Married parents could also consent to having their children placed for adoption under the proposals.
The Office of Public Works last week advertised a tender for information booklets for two million homes, to be delivered to distribution centres by October 15th.