Varadkar to direct FG campaign on children's rights vote
MINISTER FOR Transport and Tourism Leo Varadkar will be Fine Gael’s director of elections for the referendum on children’s rights which will be held in either October or November.
Mr Varadkar was yesterday named by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as the party’s director at the conclusion of its parliamentary party meeting in Westport.
Speaking after the announcement, Mr Varadkar said the party and Government had learned a lot about how to run such campaigns from the three referendums held since the Fine Gael and Labour Coalition assumed office, including the loss of the Abbeylara referendum.
He said he would begin preparatory work on the campaign immediately, notwithstanding the fact that no date for it has been announced yet.
Earlier, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald stood over the holding of the referendum on children’s rights in the wake of a second former judge questioning its necessity.
Former Supreme Court judge Hugh O’Flaherty yesterday said that children were adequately protected in the Constitution and there was no need to include an amendment.
His comments follow those of former District Court judge Michael Patwell, who has also said a referendum is unnecessary.
Ms Fitzgerald said many other experts and groups had argued a referendum was necessary.
“I know that people who are in the front line, and in the courts, and working with children, and making decisions about children, are very clear that this change is necessary at constitutional level,” she said.
“Lawyers and judges will disagree. Catherine McGuinness, former Supreme Court judge, called for this. She is a huge expert that deals in this area. She is very clear that constitutional change is necessary.
“The all-party Constitutional Review Group felt it was necessary. An all-party committee that sat and looked at this, and had 64 meetings, also came out with a unanimous recommendation. We are acting on what has been called for for 20 years.”
Ms Fitzgerald was speaking on the final day of the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, at which she briefed the party’s TDs and Senators on progress on the long-awaited referendum. Mr O’Flaherty’s comments appeared in the Irish Independent.
The meeting was also addressed by the State’s special rapporteur on child protection, Geoffrey Shannon, who pointed out that there had been calls internationally for a referendum.
“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the international standard-setter, has called on Ireland on two occasions to introduce constitutional reform to enshrine the rights of children in the Constitution,” he said.
“Not only domestic bodies but international bodies have called on Ireland to institute constitutional change,” he added.