Mattie McGrath only TD to urge No vote

Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 00:00

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has emerged as the only deputy to oppose the children’s rights referendum, which has the support of all parties in Leinster House.

In a public post on his Facebook page, the Tipperary South TD claimed the proposed constitutional amendment “undermines the family”. Rather than “wasting resources” on a referendum, more resources should be allocated to support and protect vulnerable children and their parents, he said.

“Passing a referendum will not give us more resources but will just give more power to the State, the courts and their agents. Having considered the children’s referendum very carefully, I have decided that I will be voting No this Saturday,” Mr McGrath said.

Sufficient powers

He said the State “and its agents” had sufficient powers. He had come to the conclusion that the State would not always make the best decisions about the care of children. “Parents’ rights should certainly not be undermined/ removed in any way,” he added.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael’s director of elections for the referendum, yesterday insisted that giving children rights did not diminish the rights of parents. Passing the referendum would help support families in difficulty by “underpinning” early intervention, he said.

Mr Varadkar said the Catholic Church, the independent chairwoman of the Referendum Commission, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan, and a number of parents’ groups had agreed it did not threaten the rights of the family.

“Any suggestion that this referendum is a threat to the rights of parents or the family have been utterly quashed by a variety of non-political voices,” Mr Varadkar said.

‘Playing on fears’

He accused those advocating a No vote of having “continued to play on people’s fears” by making claims about the impact the referendum would have on families.

“In fact, the claims being made by the No side have got more and more outlandish and extreme in recent days. This is about protecting children, and giving them the rights that they have been deprived of for so long,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Socialist Party yesterday called for a Yes vote. The party’s TD, Joe Higgins, said a big majority of people would welcome any measure that would enhance the rights and welfare of children. However, he accused the “political establishment” of hypocrisy for “posing as a champion of the rights of children whilst simultaneously implementing savage austerity policies”.

Trade unions yesterday called for a Yes vote. Senior representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish National Teachers Organisation, Siptu, Mandate and Impact confirmed that they supported the proposed constitutional amendment.