Preparing for 'children referendum'

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

Sir, – The children’s referendum is a misnomer. It is and should be re-named a referendum for the transfer of the rights of parents (married and unmarried) to the State and State agents.

The Irish Constitution as it stands offers far more rights to children and to every citizen in this State than any Constitution or international convention in the world. Former attorney general and tánaiste, now an eminent senior counsel, confirmed this to the Law Society in 2002. Judge Adrian Hardiman declared it as “breathtakingly inaccurate” to suggest that the Constitution as it stands prefers the rights of parents over the rights of children, but it does prefer the rights of children and parents over the rights of the State. Justice Mary Laffoy and former judge Hugh O’Flaherty all agree, as indeed do others.

If this referendum is passed, every child in the State, particularly children of deserted, separated, divorced or unmarried parents, but also children of married parents, will be in grave danger of being legally snatched by the State and State agents and adopted inside or outside Ireland.

The Irish Constitution, as it stands, is a barrier to the EU/UN all-embracing adoption policies, often termed “legalised kidnapping”. This is what will change, if the referendum is passed.

I am not just asking people, I am begging them, for the sake of all children, not to be deceived by the pious platitudes of our overpaid politicians. I wouldn’t trust “the State” with the little finger of one of my children. I certainly don’t trust it with all my children. I’ll be voting No on November 10th. – Yours, etc,

NORA BENNIS,

Revington Park,

North Circular Road,

Limerick.

Sir, – There is little debate on the children’s rights referendum and most if not all the information available to the public is totally biased in favour of a Yes vote – in fact huge amounts of money are being spent to guarantee a Yes vote.

The public is being sold a lie to the effect that the referendum will protect vulnerable children. The Government is using the abuse of children to con the public into voting Yes and to undermine the rights of parents.

The Government wants to remove the current Art. 42.5 but this article already gives the State the power to remove children at risk from the parents or family home and it also respects the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child, so there is no need to change it.

The inclusion of Article 42A in the Constitution, if passed, will give children and teenagers separate rights from their parents and even if the family is functioning normally and providing love and care to their children, their parental role will be undermined and children will lose their right to parental protection.

Voters are not told what rights children are to be given, so voters have no idea what they are voting for. It will be the State that decides. The proposed amendment makes the State the defender of the rights of children, not their parents. If the amendment is passed it will devalue Article 41 which states the family has inalienable and imprescriptible rights.

The State will possibly turn to United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child in deciding children’s rights. Some of the things the UNCRC outlines as children’s rights are quite worrying, for example, the right to freedom of association and free access to information. If children associate with unsuitable characters or access information on pornography this could be viewed as their right to equality, inclusiveness and non-discrimination which would undermine the rights of parents and deprive children of parental protection.

For parents who want to bring up their children as Catholics, Muslims, or Jews or other minority groups who want to raise their children in their own culture, language or religion, this may be perceived by so-called experts as not in the best interest of the child and could be overridden by a single decision by a judge because these choices will be out of line with contemporary social consensus.

The best interest of the child will be determined not by parents or children but by a court on the evidence of psychologists and social workers who are strangers to the child and who only have a temporary interest in the child’s welfare.

The power given to the State by this amendment if passed would instil fear in families and parents who need help will be afraid to ask. How will that help children? – Yours, etc,

MARY DOHERTY,

Slavery, Buncrana, Co Donegal.

Sir, – Many of those opposed to the children’s rights referendum have focused on the claim that, if passed, it will take power away from parents and give it to the State. This is incorrect. Power will be taken away from abusive/neglectful parents and given, instead, to their children, not the State. This is necessary to solve some problems that have no solution other than a constitutional one.

For example, I am aware of cases where men who have admitted to sexually abusing their own children were still able to force judges to give them supervised access, against the wishes of the children. This has occurred because the courts could not ignore parental rights and the children had no explicit rights enshrined in the Constitution.

The lack of these same rights leads, at best, to long drawn out legal battles and, at worst, to a form of court-approved re-abuse of the children. That cannot be allowed to continue. Even long legal battles cause harm to children because they lead to a great deal of distress and delay appropriate therapeutic interventions. This is something that is rarely, if ever, acknowledged.

The proposed reform is by no means a panacea but, if passed, it will be a major milestone in recognising that children cannot be made subject to the rights of adults, against their own best interests. – Yours, etc,

KIERAN McGRATH,

Child Welfare Consultant,

Beaconsfield Court,

Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

Sir, – Anne Flynn (October 30th), may find s2(1) of the Child Care Act 1991 and s3(1) of the Children’s Act 2001 useful in answering her question on the definition of a child. The Child Care Act 1991 is the primary piece of legislation governing child care in Ireland and s2(1) of the Act states that “a child means a person under the age of 18 years other than a person who is or has been married”. The Children’s Act 2001 lays down a criminal definition for a child in s3(1) as meaning “a person under the age of 18”. Also of interest to Ms Flynn may be the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which defines a child as “every human person below the age of 18 years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier’. – Yours, etc,

MARK CURRAN,

Darwin College,

Silver Street,

Cambridge,

England.