Churches urged to say they support referendum
MINISTER FOR Finance Michael Noonan has urged churches in Ireland to publicly support the referendum on children’s rights.
Speaking during the debate on the legislation to allow the referendum take place on November 10th, Mr Noonan said “so far the Roman Catholic Church has been silent, and the other churches have not come out on it yet”.
“I would like if the churches made a clear statement at an early date indicating that they favoured this referendum.”
He stressed the amendment would continue to recognise that children “are best reared by their parents and that it is only in exceptional cases where parents fail in their duty towards their children that the State should take action to ensure the safety and welfare of children”.
The amendment will mean that when “the court does intervene to protect children, the child will have a say in its own future”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny highlighted the more than 5,500 children in foster families, with over 2,000 with the same family for more than five years. “This legislation may offer them the opportunity to create an even stronger family bond.”
He believed every child “regardless of the random matter of their birth, should be allowed not just to feel valued, but to be valued under the law as the invaluable, irreplaceable beings they are”.
United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly described the referendum proposal as a positive measure, but “it is somewhat ironic that we have had five referenda on the issue of the rights of the so-called unborn when the rights of born children have been systematically ignored in this State”.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald called on Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to “give a commitment that she will ensure Cabinet colleagues will child-proof their departmental budget cuts and tax hikes before making any final decision in advance of December’s announcement”.
Ms McDonald said the “reality of life for many children is a world away from the aspirations in the proposed constitutional amendment. Over 100,000 children live in poverty and this number has increased in recent years as a result of the austerity policies”.
She said if the Government was “serious about making paramount the best interests of the child, we need to produce a strategy to end child poverty”.
Independent John Halligan said that while he would support the amendment it “remains a half measure” while the Government continued to cut supports to disadvantaged and vulnerable children.
There was nothing in the wording that would hold the State to the promise it made 20 years ago in ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that every child “has the right to experience a childhood free from poverty and deprivation”.