Child rights referendum date still being considered

Fri, Mar 23, 2012, 00:00

THE PRECISE timing of the children’s rights referendum this year was the subject of further Government consideration, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said.

She said she intended to make available, in conjunction with a proposal for a constitutional amendment, the proposed legislative amendments to the adoption provisions which would be introduced, based on the successful outcome of the referendum.

“I will continue to consult as a detailed wording emerges,’’ said Ms Fitzgerald. “It is my hope that, to the greatest extent possible, a broad-based consensus will be forthcoming to support the incorporation of children’s rights within our Constitution.’’

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Charlie McConalogue said there had been considerable confusion in the past couple of weeks about whether the commitment made in mid-February that the referendum would take place this year still remained.

“We need clarity on this,’’ he added. “The date has been bandied about and commitments have been given that were subsequently rolled back on.’’

Mr McConalogue said the referendum was key to enshrining the rights of children in the Constitution and ensuring there was a robust system for child protection.

Ms Fitzgerald said the referendum issue had been discussed for a long time. It was first promised by a former taoiseach on November 3rd, 2006, at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis so there were five years during which Fianna Fáil could have brought it forward, she added.

The Government, she added, had recently endorsed the holding of the referendum on a stand-alone basis this year.

Ms Fitzgerald said the precise timing depended on a number of factors: there were other referendums to be considered and the Cabinet had not yet made a decision.

She added that when she entered office, she found work had not been done on the adoption legislation, which she wanted to ensure was available when the referendum was put to the people.

“It is important people understand precisely the implications of what they are supporting in the referendum,’’ Ms Fitzgerald added.

Equally, she said, the withholding of information and vetting legislation were building blocks in the architecture of child protection and important steps as they moved towards a referendum.

It was important that the public understood the current law for children and how it would be changed when there was a constitutional referendum, she added.