Referendum viewpoints: Political reaction

Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 01:00

YES FOR CHILDREN:Supporting the referendum will be an umbrella movement not associated with any political party, led by Barnardos, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), the Children’s Rights Alliance and other organisations including Campaign for Children. Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness is chairwoman of Campaign for Children, while board members include journalist Olivia O’Leary and former senator Joe O’Toole.

Funding for Yes For Children will come from all organisations involved, while Campaign for Children has received €1.5 million from two philanthropic groups: Atlantic Philanthropies, founded by US billionaire Chuck Feeney, and the One Foundation, co-founded by Ryanair heir Declan Ryan and Deirdre Mortell.

FINE GAEL: Launching the referendum wording yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “For too long in Ireland we lived by the dictum that children should be seen and not heard. On November 10th we have the opportunity to change all of that.”

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar will be the party’s director of elections. The campaign spend will be “in keeping with spend on previous campaigns”, according to a party spokeswoman. Some €300,000 was spent on the fiscal treaty referendum earlier this year.

LABOUR: Referring to the referendum, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said: “It is about ensuring that we can protect children, in the exceptional cases when that protection is needed. It is about protecting children equally, regardless of their background.”

Minister of State for Disability and Equality Kathleen Lynch will be Labour’s director of elections. A party budget for the campaign has not been decided.

Meanwhile, the Government has allocated €3 million through the Department of Children.

FIANNA FÁIL: The party’s spokesman on children Robert Troy said Fianna Fáil would support the referendum, but claimed the new wording was “virtually identical” to former minister for children Barry Andrew’s text. Mr Andrews will be director of elections for the party. A national campaign is promised but a budget has not yet been decided.

Meanwhile, former TD Mary O’Rourke is also expected to campaign for the referendum.

SINN FÉIN:Children’s spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin welcomed the publication of the proposed wording, saying it was a significant step towards enshrining children’s rights in the Constitution. He assessed the wording as “stronger” than what was proposed by Mr Andrews last year. No decisions have been made on a director of elections or a budget for the campaign, according to a spokesman.

INDEPENDENT TD CATHERINE MURPHY: “Minister Fitzgerald has clearly given extensive thought, time and commitment to producing this vital document and I think the wording is a positive move towards finally defining the rights of Ireland’s children.”

INDEPENDENT SENATOR RONAN MULLEN: Welcomed the fact that the clause, “The State shall cherish all the children of the State equally”, had been dropped. “Importing the notion of the State as parent could be potentially problematic down the line. The State is back where it belongs here, where it is the guardian of the common good,” he told RTÉ yesterday.

UNDECIDED:

IONA INSTITUTE: Director David Quinn said he would need to study the wording for a few days. “It’s a very complex amendment and we can’t come up with a snap judgment”. However, he said it was “reassuring” that the State could only intervene in family matters in “exceptional circumstances”.

INDEPENDENT SENATOR JILLIAN VAN TURNHOUT: Said she would take a few days to consult with legal counsel and consider the full implications of the wording before she made her position known.

OTHER VIEWS:

FORMER SURPREME COURT JUDGE HUGH O’FLAHERTY: said in a recent Irish Independent article that a referendum is not necessary to protect children’s rights, saying the matters involved are covered by an existing article of the Constitution, in legislation and in court judgments.

KATHY SINNOTT: The former Independent MEP has previously claimed the referendum could result in enforced vaccinations.

PARENTS FOR CHILDREN: Spokeswoman Maria Mhic Mheanmain complained that her efforts to engage with the Government “had been ignored”. Prior to the publication of the wording, she said: “where the state is failing a child into whose life it has intervened, our proposal would have allowed a relative to go to court to be made that child’s advocate or guardian.”