Referendum part of 'wider reforms'


The proposed constitutional amendment is “the backdrop” to a wider programme of change for children being pursued by the Government, Minister for Children and YouthAffairs, Frances Fitzgerald said at Leinster House this morning.

“These reforms focus on improving capability to promote the safety and welfare of children and to ensure that child protection services can respond appropriately to all child protection concerns.

“The proposed amendment gives the entire voting public a rare opportunity to consider how we all view children in society and how we reflect that view in the Constitution.

“It is a question for now but it is also a question for future generations and it does merit the fullest attention and consideration of the voting public,” she told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children.

Committee chairman, Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said: “The referendum is 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.”

Stressing the need for media coverage of the referendum, he said: “We need vigorous media scrutiny of the debate.”

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children, Robert Troy TD said: “I have a concern with the lack of traction and the lack of media attention that this is generating in terms of having an informed debate within the wider community.”

His party “fully supports” the amendment but he added that he had taken part in a number of public meetings in his own constituency of Longford Westmeath and “the crowds that are coming aren’t huge”.

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

He added: “I would urge members of all parties and independent voices to use the intervening time to play their part in a pro-active way in encouraging that support.”