Referendum on children's rights


Sir, – Having read John Waters’s colourful opinion piece (October 26th) on the forthcoming children’s referendum, I was compelled to respond.

While raising some valid arguments and reservations against the referendum, Waters also felt obliged to show his disdain for both the Irish electorate, and the readership of the very newspaper for which he writes.   Though there will always be an element of what he terms “dinner-party democracy” in any referendum purporting to affect social change, there are many voters who are treating this issue with the respect it deserves.   John Waters asserts that “people affect philosophies or positions in order to look good”; though this may be true for some, for others, the referendum, however flawed, offers the opportunity to enshrine the rights of children into the Constitution, and perhaps help prevent a recurrence of the horrors of our past.

When John Waters writes of the “apocalypse of ignorance and indifference” that will apparently transpire on November 10th, perhaps he should consider the concerned parents, social workers, children’s rights advocates, adoptees, and countless victims of childhood abuse – all coming forward in an attempt to effect much needed change.  In our dismal history, the failure of the State, and the failure of adults against children, must be redressed, through whatever vehicle available.

While “dinner-party democracy” is indeed prevalent and to be abhorred, so too is “tea-party”, self-indulgent journalism, and though apparently “most of our populations (are) incapable of imagining anything terrible happening in the world they inhabit”, many of the rest of us live each day trying to forget what has happened to ourselves, while endeavouring to ensure a brighter, and safer future for our own children, and those of others. – Yours, etc,


Beechfield Meadows,

Clonee, Dublin 15.

Sir, – I remain undecided, but deeply sceptical about the forthcoming referendum. I would like to air my concerns as a citizen and as a parent.

It seems we citizens have been railroaded into several amendments to the Constitution in recent years, with little room for proper debate and even less tolerance of the wrong answer. We were threatened with economic ruin if we didn’t abdicate a significant chunk of our national sovereignty in the Lisbon treaty and when we exercised that sovereignty and said No we were bullied into a second vote and finally submitted.

Now another proposed amendment has come along where there’s some room for intelligent debate, but there’s such an overwhelming consensus that the No side is under represented and barely audible (with apologies to John Waters, but his article of October 26th only scratches the surface of my concerns).

Without debate, the consensus is empty and democracy is poorly served yet again.

As a parent, I have many more substantive concerns. For now, let me simply pose three questions and hopefully someone can answer them clearly: 1. If, as stated and will remain in Article 41, the Family is “the primary and fundamental unit group of Society” and it possesses “inalienable and imprescriptible rights”, surely the possibility that the State, under whatever circumstances, shall “endeavour to supply the place of the parents” actually proscribes parents’ rights and undermines the family in a profound and fundamental way? 2. Why just children? Article 40 states “All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before law.” Are children more equal before the law than, say, the elderly or the infirm? 3. Has the State not proven over and over since its foundation and as recently as the report into St Patrick’s Institution, that it has a very poor record of caring for our children? – Yours, etc,


Bird Avenue,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – A child holding a teddy bear lays down a simple challenge: could you possibly vote No to a Children’s Rights Referendum? The result of this referendum will affect many more children than all the children that poster represents today. It will have an impact on children over the next 10 to 20 years. The effect of this amendment over the long term will be to increase the size and scope of State agencies and other organisations which are dedicated to helping children who are not being looked after properly, ie curing the effects of poor parenting.

Experience tells us that prevention is better than cure, so why not shift our focus? Where is the State apparatus dedicated to the prevention of poor parenting? Are we afraid to challenge the circumstances that contribute to poor parenting? Or do we just think society is damaged beyond repair? It’s true that all the prevention in the world will not eliminate the need for a cure, but we must strike a balance. In the hope that we shift our focus onto prevention I will be voting No. – Yours, etc,


Braemor Drive,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – The Oxford English Dictionary defines a child as “a young human being below the age of puberty”. To what precise age group does the children’s referendum apply? There is no such explanation in the information booklet delivered to my home last week. – Yours, etc,


Rochestown Road,