Referendum will 'help protect children from abuse, neglect'
THE REFERENDUM on children’s rights will “help protect children from abuse and neglect, support families, treat all children equally and recognise children in their own right”, the Minister for Children has told the Dáil.
Introducing the legislation that allows for the referendum to take place on Saturday, November 10th, Frances Fitzgerald highlighted a series of reforms and Bills the Government is introducing, including child protection services and laws.
She said, however, that while each of the reforms was important “none can have the wide-ranging and permanent effect of constitutional change” and that was why the referendum was so important.
The 31st Amendment of the Constitution (Children’s Rights) Bill repeals Article 42.5 of the Constitution and inserts a replacement that expressly recognises children in their own right. It also strengthens protection of children in the Constitution.
Ms Fitzgerald said the values the Constitution espoused and the rights it provided were so intrinsically connected with being a citizen that the origin of those rights and values was rarely questioned. But the protections in the case of the children of the State were “lacking”.
The Minister said “the dark stain of child abuse and the failure of those in positions of power to protect children must propel us to listen to children and act in their best interests”, and the constitutional change would address that.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy said the original commitment to hold a referendum on children’s rights was given more than five years ago. “It is disappointing that it has taken this long to come to fruition,” he said.
The Longford-Westmeath TD said a lot of work had been done but “much more work remains to be done”. He said that was clear through the publication “of the 17 horrific reports that were published detailing the failure of the State to protect the children of the State from abuse by families and religious congregations. A constitutional change will bring many benefits but it is not panacea, and without appropriate funding it is mere window dressing.”
Sinn Féin spokesman on children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it was important to highlight that the amendment “will have no impact on the definition of the family in the Constitution. This will neither alter nor weaken the constitutional family unit. The special protection received by the traditional family construct will not be damaged.”
Mr Ó Caoláin, who said his party would support and campaign for the referendum, said it was “of the utmost importance that false arguments are shown to be so. What is at stake are children’s rights, period and end of story.”
He said the referendum “gives people the opportunity to vote to say ‘stop’ to the abuse suffered by children through the decades”.