Poll on children's rights 'invites disaster'

Sat, Oct 20, 2012, 01:00

THE CHILDREN’S rights amendment to the Constitution is “dangerous” and will “invite disaster”, a new group opposed to the amendment has said.

Speaking at the launch of the Two Rights Now campaign, Dick Spicer, formerly chairman of the Humanist Association, said the amendment was “a shift towards intervention” by the State.

“Any state that has gone over the top on intervention, it has led to disasters,” he said.

If passed on November 10th, the 31st amendment to the Constitution will introduce a new article, article 42A, and will remove article 42.5. Its aim is to strengthen the rights of children.

The new opposing group is made up of Mr Spicer, John Colgan and Mike McKillen, all three of whom had campaigned for the separation of church and State in the 1980s.

It has no funding and will carry out its campaign online at tworightsnow.organd on Facebook. In its literature it described the referendum as “a distraction from fundamental issues”.

The group has called for the proper vindication of two rights of children already contained in the Constitution; the right to a free primary education and the right to attend national school without receiving a religious education. The State had yet to grant these rights, Mr McKillen said.

He said the group would be voting No “to draw attention to the fundamental rights being airbrushed out of the equation”.

Mr Spicer said they appreciated the good intentions of those involved in the Yes campaign, but “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

He criticised Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, who he said phrased the referendum in terms of “these poor children who are being burnt - vote Yes to save the burnt children”.

“The fact of the matter is the State already can intervene if there is abuse of children so why is she peddling this over the top nonsense?” he asked.

He said the issues should have been discussed at the promised convention on the Constitution.

Mr Colgan, who said he was abused at a Christian Brothers school, said most of the procedures to be introduced under the amendment, such as the rights of children to be heard in court, were redundant as they were already a part of practice. And what was not already being done could be implemented through ordinary legislation.

“We need an attitudinal change, but we don’t need to put it into the Constitution,” he said.