Minister calls for 'informed debate' ahead of voting


MINISTER FOR Children Frances Fitzgerald has said “inaccurate” information is being peddled about the children’s rights referendum and has called for a “high-quality, informed debate”.

She rejected claims from Alliance of Parents Against the State, an organisation fronted by former MEP Kathy Sinnott, that the proposed constitutional amendment could result in enforced vaccinations and State provision of birth control to children.

“That is inaccurate. We have to be very clear what this referendum does. It strengthens children’s protection; children who are at risk in exceptional cases where their safety is compromised,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

She said the wording of the referendum did not mean that the State wanted to “snatch” children from their families. “Far from it,” she said. “There’s no question of forced vaccinations or forced anything else.

“We have laws in relation to those kind of issues which remain in place. Let’s be very clear about what the referendum does and let’s not frighten people about what it doesn’t do.”

The Minister was speaking ahead of a briefing in Dublin yesterday organised by the Children’s Rights Alliance, which is supporting the proposed constitutional amendment. The amendment, which has support across the political divide in Leinster House, would make it easier for the children of married parents to be adopted.

Ms Fitzgerald said Irish children did not have enough rights at present.

She said a high turnout on polling day – Saturday, November 10th – would make a “very important statement to this generation and future generations”.

It was a busy time in the political cycle, but she hoped a “high quality, informed debate” would take place in the remaining weeks of the campaign.

She warned those campaigning for a Yes vote that there was no room for complacency. “There’s not one vote cast yet.”

Ms Fitzgerald also made a “very special plea” to young people and students to vote. “It’s an opportunity for people to bring their children and young adults to the polling booth and let them see democracy in action.”

She said the issue of abortion should not be linked to the referendum. The Alliance of Parents Against the State says on its website: “The State can bring children to other countries for abortions without parental consent and even if the child disagrees.”

Ms Fitzgerald said abortion was not connected to the referendum. “It is a very separate issue. Some people may choose to make links and people have a right to make the comments that they make,” she said.

She said the expert group on abortion’s report had not yet come to Government, although it was expected in the near future. When the Cabinet received the report, the options it contained would be considered.

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