Constitution rewrite to protect child


A REWRITE of Article 42 of the Constitution, entitled Education, is to be proposed by the Oireachtas committee on a children’s rights amendment.

The committee is to publish its final report at the end of next week. It is proposing a new Article 42 rather than the addition of a paragraph to the article, as was originally proposed by the Government.

The Government’s proposed amendment acknowledged and affirmed “the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children” and provided that the children of married couples might be adopted, which is almost impossible under the present law.

It also would have obliged the courts to “endeavour to secure the best interests of the child” in all adoption, guardianship, custody and access cases.

However, it was pointed out that under the Guardianship of Infants Act, the rights of the child are “paramount” in such proceedings, and asking the courts to “endeavour” to secure them weakened these statutory provisions.

Many of those involved in promoting children’s rights urged a different amendment, including amending Article 41, on the family . The Irish Timeshas learned that the committee has agreed not to propose any amendment to Article 41, which critics have blamed for inhibiting interventions to protect children.

Instead, the committee considers that a new Article 42, beginning with a new declaration on the rights of the child and going on to list rights, including the right to free primary education which is already referred to in that article, would be most likely to obtain broad support.

Paragraph 5 of Article 42 states that “in exceptional cases, where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children, the State . . . shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents.”

This paragraph will be rewritten to permit the adoption of children of married parents in certain circumstances, and will modify the threshold for State intervention to protect the rights and welfare of a child.