Proposal to give a child right to be cared for
IRELAND’S MOST vulnerable children would be given “a second chance” if the Government’s constitutional amendment was passed, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
Pointing to the wide range of reports on child abuse over the past 20 years, Mr Kenny said: “It is the intention of the Government to put these – and indeed all – children first.”
Mr Kenny was speaking at a news conference to announce the wording of the proposed 31st amendment to the Constitution and other details of the forthcoming referendum.
“For too long in Ireland we have lived by the dictum that children should be seen and not heard. On November 10th this year we have the opportunity to change all of that,” he told journalists.
“It is proposed for the first time in the history of this Republic to ask the people to vote to insert an article in the Constitution dedicated entirely to children as individuals, as citizens in their own right.
“I hope there can be cross-party support for this development,” he added.
“There will be a well-resourced Referendum Commission along with a comprehensive Government information campaign.
“In accordance with proper procedure, the Chief Justice has nominated Ms Justice Mary Finlay-Geoghegan to be the chair of the Referendum Commission.”
Echoing the Taoiseach’s sentiments, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said it was a historic referendum “informed by bitter lessons of our history, but also one that makes a very clear statement about our future, our society, and the place of children in it.
“As a State, some of the darkest moments in our past are a direct consequence of ignoring children’s interests, and children’s right to be cared for and protected,” the Labour leader said.
He added: “Childhood only happens once and on November 10th, we have an opportunity to decide that every childhood is precious, and that every child is deserving of our protection and care.”
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said it was one of the most significant referendums in the history of the State. “This amendment proposes to include a new standalone article in our Constitution, article 42A, titled ‘Children’, which will greatly inform the courts’ consideration of the legal framework for decision-making regarding children.”
She added: “I am also publishing today the Draft Adoption (Amendment) Bill, which we will bring to the Oireachtas when the referendum is passed.”
Ms Fitzgerald said: “The debate on this referendum must not belong solely to constitutional lawyers or politicians. This is a debate for all of us. That is why this Government will be running a major information campaign as we did for the stability treaty referendum earlier this year.
“We will have a website childrensreferendum.ieand we will be sending an information booklet to every home.”
Ms Fitzgerald said there were “significant changes” from previous proposed wordings and there was a new emphasis on “what is the impact of the parental failure on the child”.
She said there was “a stronger and more robust definition of how the State can help children who are vulnerable”.
On the issue of adoption in the amendment, she said: “What it does is treat all children equally, irrespective of the marital status of their parents.”
Earlier in the morning, the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister briefed Opposition representatives, giving them the wording for the referendum and taking them through the details.