Children's rights - how come nobody asked us?
A three-minute animation emerged explaining what the referendum is about and why it’s being held, and it’s not in juvenile or patronising language. “Ireland has failed children,” it tells us. “So let’s learn from these mistakes. Not all children get the same start in life. It’s about protecting the most vulnerable children. It’s about ensuring the State looks after the best interests of these children.”
A rap has also been written: “We have the right to be heard/the right to free speech/We want equality/And to have one of our goals reached/So listen up to what’s said/And plant a seed in your head/By voting Yes in this campaign you are increasing the spread.”
Unicef Ireland has also produced a tool kit, which can be downloaded from its website, to be used in schools and youth groups to foster discussion, debate and learning about the referendum and children’s rights among children and young people. By the end of last week it had been downloaded by almost 1,500 schools and youth groups.
Though they cannot vote this weekend, the young people at Newpark are proud to say they “can pester”, and have been to the fore in pushing the issues with parents, siblings “and teachers” they say. “My brother is 20 and he said, ‘Why would I bother with this?’ and I said to him it could affect me,” says Lucienne. “I persuaded him to talk to his friends too about it.”
“People think they’re grown up and it’s not going to affect then, but it will affect their kids,” nods Ellie.
All four favour a Yes vote and cannot understand why anyone would consider voting No. When asked whether they think a Yes vote could give the State too much power to intervene in families’ lives they say they hope a Yes vote would encourage the State to give greater help to families in need of support, because that is what would be best for the children.
“If you look at the news, Ministers are taking a lot of our money. We need to be able to trust the State,” says Josh.
“There isn’t just the one option of taking the kids away from families,” says Ellie. “The families might just need help with things. The kids would be able to tell them that.”