Minister accuses No campaigners of peddling constant misinformation
The No side in the children’s referendum campaign has been accused of advancing “constant misinformation” by the Fine Gael director of elections.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said yesterday there seemed to be a complete disregard for the truth from many of those opposing the referendum.
“Deeply disturbing statements are being made by the No side, ranging from claims about forced adoption to the suggestion that this referendum is a threat to parents’ rights,” he added.
“These are desperate attempts to derail a referendum that, if passed, will have a hugely positive effect on child protection in this country.”
Mr Varadkar said a Yes vote would remove inequalities in adoption, meaning children in long-term foster care had a better chance of a safe and secure home in the long term, regardless of the marital status of their parents.
“At the moment, it is virtually impossible for these children to be adopted by their foster families,” he added. “Voting Yes will change this.”
In a statement, Mr Varadkar said voting Yes would not in any way lead to forced adoptions, and the referendum would not change any existing safeguards.
Calling for a No vote, former presidential candidate and MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon said the Government could better provide for the rights of children by removing the severe EU austerity measures in place.
In a weekend statement, Ms Scallon accused the Government of initiating “a contentious and unnecessary constitutional amendment”.
She added: “I will be voting No in the best interests of our children and I urge you to do the same.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who canvassed in Dublin shopping centres on Saturday, said a Yes vote would ensure the appropriate use of power by the State to protect children.
“This is an opportunity to put in place rights for children and their protection and, also, to give those in foster care an opportunity to have a second chance,” he said.
Mr Kenny said the referendum was about the use, and not abuse, of power.
Speaking at a press conference in Limerick yesterday, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the referendum was about the exceptional and not the norm.
“In exceptional cases in this country, children are being abused and neglected in their own homes,” he said.
“And it is very important that in these exceptional cases, the State can intervene to protect children at risk.”
Mr Noonan said the amendment continued to recognise that children were best reared by their parents.
“But in cases where parents fail, this referendum will allow action to be taken to ensure the safety of children,” he added.
“Any intervention must be proportionate, which means any action must deal with the problems causing harm to the child.”
Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said the referendum was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, given that there had been calls for a children’s referendum for the past 30 years.
“Your presence at the polls is extremely important,” she added.
Children’s laureate Niamh Sharkey said a high turnout would send a strong signal to Government that children mattered.