Fine Gael intent on mobilising strong campaign for Yes vote on referendum

Tue, Oct 16, 2012, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT has no sense of complacency about passing the children’s rights referendum next month but a strong campaign will be mobilised for a Yes vote, Ministers said yesterday.

Launching Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes vote in the November 10th referendum, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was not yet clear what the scale of any opposition to the passing of the referendum might be.

He insisted, however, it was not going to be a “charter for trespass” into the family home.

“This proposed amendment to the Constitution does not give power away. It proposes to use power – always ethically, professionally and justly – to protect and uphold the rights, the safety, the dignity and innocence of children,” he said.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said she was satisfied this was an area that would have resources allocated to it. She noted that responsibility for such issues would be removed from the Health Service Executive next year with the establishment of the Family Support Agency in January.

She said the referendum was about protecting children.

“It’s about supporting families by reaffirming and underpinning early intervention and family support services, to protect children in their homes. It’s about treating all children equally, in particular by removing inequalities in adoption. It’s about recognising children in their own right.”

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he entered into the campaign with “a sense of excitement, a sense of anticipation and hope, but with no sense of complacency”. He said we had come through two decades of “shocking” revelations about the physical and sexual abuse and neglect of children.

This included failures of church and State, and legal confusion about the importance to be attached to child welfare when serious issues arose over a child’s future, or over children at risk.

He said a “resounding” Yes vote would say something important about our values as a nation, the extent to which we valued children, and the extent to which we valued the importance of ushering in a new era.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, who is director of elections for the party, said Fine Gael would mobilise its entire organisation between now and November 10th.

Wayne Dignam, who grew up in State care and is a board member of the Irish Foster Care Association, spoke about his own experience and urged a Yes vote. Mr Dignam, who was first taken into State care when he was three, said he had been continually brought back to his family to “unsafe and difficult circumstances” because the law presumed his best interests were always within his family, “despite the very clear evidence to the contrary”.

A one-hour TV3 debate on the referendum will be moderated by Vincent Browne on October 31st.