No side accused of misinformation

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

Organisations claiming parents will be disempowered by the proposed changes to the status of children in the Constitution are engaging in a campaign of misinformation, according to a alliance of parents' organisations.

Six parents' groups called for a Yes vote in the upcoming Children’s Referendum at a press conference in Dublin today.

“Affording children rights is not about diminishing the rights of parents or the family or indeed increasing the rights of the State. It is about society in Ireland making a statement of value about its children,” Áine Lynch of the National Parents Council Primary said.

She urged people to vote on November 10th to “give the strongest message possible that Ireland values its children”.

Olive Good, of the Mothers’ Union, warned Yes supporters against complacency, saying she thought there was an assumption that the result is a foregone conclusion.

“We do need people to go out to vote,” she said - as otherwise the Government might feel it does not have a mandate to pursue children’s rights in the future.

Ms Good said the proposed amendment will allow the State to intervene at an earlier stage to ensure families in adverse situations get support. It will allow the State to take a “proactive rather than reactive” approach to children’s rights, she added.

She accused elements of the No campaign of “just putting misinformation out there”, and added the amendment will give children rights in their own standing - but “parents will still have to advocate for children… none of that will change”.

Later, an anti-amendment campaign group, Two Rights Now, issued a statement expressing surprise at the decision of parents' groups to take a stance on an issue that “might seem to be beyond their remit”.

“It would be more fitting for these parents’ associations (local and national) to take a stand in support of the two existing children’s constitutional rights, namely, the right to free primary education - which, patently does not exist in practice - and the right of any child to attend any school which is in receipt of public money without being obliged to attend religious instruction in a classroom,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council has come out in favour of the proposed amendment. In a statement released today, the council said the amendment “puts beyond doubt that the State can intervene where there is no immediate threat to the child, but he or she is suffering from chronic neglect”.