Wording of children's rights referendum is published
At a briefing in Government Buildings, the Minister rejected suggestions that the amendment was a charter to break up the family.
She insisted children could only be taken away from their parents in exceptional cases and said the reforms were intended to be preventative, and to ensure they are protected. “But we have to recognise that children can suffer in families and it’s about a strong proportionate response,” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald said the reforms were not intended to allow the Government to intervene with families and put children with parents in care. “There is no evidence in Ireland through our courts or our services that there is a huge wish to move the situations where many more children are in care,” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald said the Government would work hard to support families where problems had been identified to prevent this from happening.
Mr Kenny said he was hopeful of cross-party support for the amendment. “The extensive time and energy put into making and enforcing these new laws reflects the priority the Government attaches to child protection,” he said. “These reforms will be both substantial and sustaining for the next generation.”
Mr Kenny announced the Chief Justice had appointed Mrs Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan to head the Referendum Commission. He said the Government is committed to ensuring that the Irish people have all the information they need to make an informed decision on the vote. "To that end, there will be a well-resourced Referendum Commission along with a comprehensive Government information campaign," he said.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the referendum was “about ensuring that we can protect children, in the exceptional cases when that protection is needed”.
This is an extremely important amendment, he said. "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."
In addition to the referendum wording, Ms Fitzgerald has also published the Draft Adoption (Amendment) Bill.
“It sets out in detail how we propose to address the issues of voluntary placement, the adoption of children in foster care as a result of serious and persistent parental failure, and the role of the High Court in deciding on such matters.” she said.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said that, at first reading, it was “broadly satisfied” with the wording, but questioned the apparent exemption of State agencies from the requirement to consider the voice of the child when proceedings are taken against them.
“Frances Fitzgerald’s wording appears to restrict the right of child to have his/her voice heard to proceedings brought by the State," said
ICCL director Mark Kelly. "Is the Minister really proposing that children should be seen but not heard in proceedings brought against the State and its agencies?”