Who opposes children's referendum?
BACKGROUND:Just 11 days ahead of polling day, what groups and personalities oppose the amendment on children’s rights – and what are their positions?
FIVE GROUPS opposed to the children’s rights referendum have been classified as “approved bodies” by the Referendum Commission.
They are: Unmarried and Separated Families of Ireland; Mothers Alliance Ireland; the Christian Solidarity Party; Christian Democrats; and Direct Democracy Ireland.
Approved bodies can appoint agents to attend at the issue and opening of postal voters’ ballot papers, at polling stations and at the count.
Fr Brian McKevitt, editor of the Catholic monthly newspaper Alive!, has described the referendum as a “massive confidence trick” on children and parents.
“If passed, the amendment will lay the groundwork for a massive transfer of authority over young people from parents to the State,” he said.
Fathers’ rights campaigner Ray Kelly of Unmarried and Separated Families of Ireland has said the referendum is “a golden opportunity wasted to give children an equal right to have a father”.
Former independent MEP Kathy Sinnott is the most prominent member of the Alliance of Parents against the State. She has insisted the proposed amendment could result in enforced vaccinations and State provision of birth control to children.
Columnist John Waters, writing in the Irish Mail on Sunday recently, said the lack of “a guarantee of the protection of the child’s rights to maintain a personal relationship and regular contact with both parents . . . must raise questions as to the ideological basis of this referendum”.
Christian Solidarity Party spokesman Richard Greene said he believed the referendum wording would not protect children’s rights “but will weaken them by undermining parental rights to protect their children from the State”.
Spokeswoman for the Christian Democrats Nora Bennis said the referendum should be stopped because printed copies of the referendum Bill containing a misprint suggesting the proposed constitutional amendment related to the article protecting the right to life were distributed to post offices. The copies were available to members of the public before they were withdrawn.
Direct Democracy Ireland’s spokesman Raymond Whitehead said the Government could not be trusted “because it has done U-turns on just about everything”. The Coalition and Opposition parties are backing the referendum.
Theresa Heaney of Mothers Alliance Ireland pointed to the argument put forward by former Supreme Court judge Hugh O’Flaherty, who suggested that the amendment was unnecessary in the light of existing constitutional provisions and laws. She added: “We see a State takeover of children and obviously we’re totally opposed to that.”
Parents For Children spokeswoman Maria Mhic Mheanmain has said a Yes vote would weaken the rights of children by undermining parental power.
“If passed, this amendment will remove from children the most important right that they have – that is the right to parental protection and advocacy,” she said.
Columnist Mary Ellen Synon has said: “One of the great dangers, of course, is that in Ireland most people will imagine that the parents who get caught up in the nightmare of having their children snatched by social workers are never ‘people like us’.”