Minister says child rights referendum to be in autumn
MINISTER FOR Children Frances Fitzgerald has rejected a Fianna Fáil claim that a delay in publishing the wording of the children’s referendum was putting the result in jeopardy.
Ms Fitzgerald said the Government was on target to hold the referendum this autumn.
Speaking at the opening of a €1.5 million Barretstown children’s activity centre in Co Kildare yesterday, the Minister said it had always been the Government’s intention to publish the wording of the referendum in the autumn, and there was, therefore, no delay.
This week Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on children Robert Troy said it was “totally unacceptable” that the Government “has allowed the summer to pass without publishing the wording of the referendum on children’s rights”.
He said such a delay risked the possibility of a repeat of the referendum on extra powers for Oireachtas committees which was rejected by the electorate.
Ms Fitzgerald dismissed Mr Troy’s claim, saying the publication of the wording of the referendum, which has yet to be approved by the Cabinet, would give the public adequate time to consider the issues.
“This Government is committed to holding a referendum; we’re on target on holding that referendum and holding it in the autumn.
“There will be plenty of time for debate and discussion. That is what the Government intentions are, and that is what will happen,” the Minister added.
“We want to make sure that people understand the range of issues.”
The referendum wording, which will involve a rewrite of article 42 of the Constitution, will give children specific rights as individuals.
It is likely to have cross-party support, but may be opposed by groups who feel it undermines the centrality of the family in Irish life.
Ms Fitzgerald said she did not envisage “any problem” in finalising the wording before it went to Cabinet, but that wording was still a work in progress.
She described it as “ongoing work” between the Department of Children and the Office of the Attorney General.
“It is important to get it right. We’ve been very careful, as has the Attorney General, in ensuring that we have the concepts and general principles that were in the committee that we don’t use words that are unnecessary or that could have a different meaning.”
The final decision when the wording would be published would be made by Cabinet, but the Minister envisaged it would be shortly after the start of the new Dáil term.
She did not indicate a date for the referendum, although the most likely dates are in late October or early November.