Objective of vote to protect vulnerable, Minister tells Dáil


CHILDREN'S REFERENDUM:THE FORTHCOMING poll was not about undermining parents and the Government fully supported the family, Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald has said.

The Minister told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children she wanted to make it “absolutely clear” that the objective of the referendum was to protect vulnerable children.

She said it had been long established in our Constitution that the State did have a role in protecting children.

“What we’ve done is, we’ve taken that provision and we’ve made it clearer,” she said. “We’ve reformulated the article, so it focuses not on the parental failure but the impact on the child.”

While the Government’s support was for the family, it was a reality “that children are abused, mostly in their own homes; it is exceptional, it’s a small number”.

The Minister continued: “It’s not about snatching children, this is not about trying to undermine parents.”

The committee chairman, Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, said the referendum was an opportunity to offer a second chance of family life to those children who need it.

“People talk about the State being at the centre and the role of the State. This referendum is about putting children at the centre,” he said.

He also stressed the need for media coverage: “We need vigorous media scrutiny of the debate.”

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy said he was concerned at the lack of media attention the referendum was generating, in terms of informed debate.

His party fully supported the amendment.

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin expressed concern there would be complacency across the political spectrum because “we have such a strength of agreement across all parties and elected voices”.

He urged members of all parties and Independents to use the intervening time to play their part in a pro-active way in encouraging support for the referendum.

Independent Senator Jillian Van Turnhout said vote mobilisation was a big issue: “The posters are all up but ... we’re not hearing it on the airwaves.”

Some people, she said, thought the referendum was about child benefit: “We have to inform people what this referendum is about.”

Although she did not have a constituency, she was “very happy to go to any constituency and inform and brief people”.