Silence of churches on referendum is 'disturbing', says TD


A LABOUR party backbencher has described as “disturbing” the silence of the churches on the children’s rights referendum.

As the Dáil last night passed all stages of the legislation which allows the referendum to take place on Saturday, November 10th, Wicklow TD Anne Ferris said it was “telling that the Opposition parties support the referendum because a united political front is essential in redressing the wrongs done to children in the past”.

Ms Ferris said the political support was welcome, as was that of civil society groups such as the Yes to Children umbrella group.

Supporting comments by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan who called on all the churches in Ireland to publicly support the referendum at the earliest date, the Wicklow TD said the churches’ “silence on this issue is disturbing in my view. As a Catholic and as a person who was adopted I would like them to take the steps to demonstrate their support.”

The 31st Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill, debated over three days, passed without a vote. The legislation inserts an article in the Constitution expressly recognising children in their own right and gives greater recognition to the protection of children. United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was all very well giving legal rights to children but he asked “where are the resources to back that up?” He said many of the resources that would prevent children and families from getting into difficulties in the first place were being taken away.

Charlie McConalogue, Fianna Fáil education spokesman, paid tribute to Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and her department for their work on the Bill and related adoption legislation. Fianna Fáil would fully support the referendum. “However, we must ensure we deliver the resources to ensure each child is treasured,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Pádraig MacLochlainn reiterated his party’s support for the referendum but he said the amendment “will make no difference to children with disabilities who do not have access to the services they need. It will make no difference to children who live in poverty and go to school hungry on a daily basis.”

The Bill now goes to the Seanad.