Preparing for the 'children' referendum


Sir, – This referendum is unnecessary. Our children are fully protected under the Constitution as it stands.

The much-quoted Kilkenny incest and Roscommon cases, as well as others. were not caused by any defect in the law but rather by the failure of those charged with the responsibility of giving effect to that law. None of the deaths of the children in care, nor damage caused by clerical abuse arose as a result of deficiencies in the law. The same State responsible for these atrocities is now trumped as the saviour of our children.

The proposed adoption provision is no more than a smokescreen. Children of married parents may be adopted under the present Constitution. Nowhere is this set out in the information circulated to the public. There is no need for this new provision. Legislation would resolve any difficulties and new legislation will be required to give effect to any changed provision in the Constitution.

The proposal that children must be heard in court proceedings is nonsense as well as being prohibitive in cost.

At present in court cases of care proceedings the system of guardians ad litem operates and in criminal proceedings children are represented. The introduction of obligatory representation for children in family law proceedings is without merit.

Disputes between parents are stressful enough for children without compelling them to appear before a judge to preserve their paramount interest. Who will decide what “paramount” means – one or other of the parents, a legal representative of either parent or of the children in question, the judge? On what basis? Who will set the criteria?

The delays in hearing those family law proceedings will be extensive as these children will have no income and will have to apply for civil legal aid where the waiting list is nine months or longer.

The people of this country are being fooled by the pious platitudes of politicians as is evident from the fact that the same politicians cannot decide on the title of the referendum – children or children’s. – Yours, etc,


Palmerston Park,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – I have voted in every election and referendum for over 40 years, but I won’t be voting on Saturday.

I’m fed up with the pious mouthings of the Yes side about vows to our children and cherishing all our children and so forth. We don’t need a referendum to do this.

If the referendum is carried we will then have to wait for the legislation; why not let us see the legislation first? We will then be depending on the judiciary to interpret the legislation and the Constitution – the same judiciary that regularly shows leniency to rapists. These are the people who will finally decide what’s in the best interests of the child, and it will probably be done in the secret family courts. First, we should know what the legislation will be and then there should be full transparency over how it is interpreted.

I won’t vote against it because I have spent 40 years cherishing children and I don’t see that it can do much harm if it is passed, but mostly I couldn’t think of myself as being on the same side as the right- wing lunatics and conspiracy theorists who see the hand of the UN/EU/Satan behind it all. – Yours, etc,


Forest Road,

Swords, Co Dublin.

Sir, – We support a Yes vote in the children’s referendum on November 10th. This is a historic opportunity to put children at the heart of the Constitution. We encourage everyone to make time on Saturday to vote Yes for children. – Yours, etc,

ANNE FAY, INTO; DAVID NOLAN SC, Bar Council of Ireland; FERGUS FINLAY, Barnardos; MICHAEL BARRON, BeLong To LGBT Youth Services; Dr THOMAS QUIGLEY, Bessborough Centre; DENISE MC CORMILLA, Border Counties Childhood Network; MARY FLAHERTY, Cari (The Children at Risk in Ireland Foundation); BART STORAN, Campaign for Children; CARMEL CORRIGAN, Independent Research and Evaluation Consultant; CATHERINE GHENT, Solicitor; EDDIE D’ARCY, Catholic Youth Care; PATRICIA MURRAY, Childminding Ireland; MARY O’CONNOR, Children in Hospital Ireland; TANYA WARD, Children’s Rights Alliance; MARTIN O’CONNOR, COPE Galway; JOHN DOLAN, Disability Federation of Ireland; KAREN Mc HUGH, Doras Luimní; Dr DAIRE KEOGH, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra; Dr DYMPNA DEVINE, UCD; Dr GEOFFREY SHANNON; ELLEN O’MALLEY DUNLOP, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre; JOHN HOLLHAN, Educate Together; JENNIFER GARGAN, Empowering People in Care; ETHEL BUCKLEY, Siptu; CLAIRE DINEEN, Family Resource Centre National Forum; JOYCE LOUGHNAN, Focus Ireland; CLÍONA FROST, Príomhoifigeach, Forbairt Naíonraí Teo; SEAN CAMPBELL, Foróige; Fr PETER MCVERRY; KIERAN ROSE, Gay and Lesbian Equality Network; PAUL MARTIN, Home-Start National Office, Ireland; DENISE CHARLTON, Immigrant Council of Ireland; PADDY CONNOLLY, Inclusion Ireland; ELAINE GERAGHTY, Inspire Ireland Foundation; DAVID JOYCE, Irish Congress of Trade Unions; MARK KELLY, Irish Council for Civil Liberties; LIZ WALL, Irish Countrywomen’s Association; SEAN O’GORMAN, Irish Foster Care Association; LIAM HERRICK, Irish Penal Reform Trust; DYLAN GRACE, President of Irish Second-Level Students’ Union; ASHLEY BALBIRNIE, Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; NIALL MCLOUGHLIN, Irish Youth Foundation; JONATHAN IRWIN, Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation; JACKIE O’CALLAGHAN; CATHERINE McGUINNESS; ORLA KENNY, Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership; CATHLEEN O’NEILL, Kilbarrack Youth Project; JAMES MCCOURT, Law Society of Ireland; ORLA TUOHY, Lifestart Foundation; KIERAN O’DOWD, Macra na Feirme; MAURICE PRATT, Barretstown; CHRISTINA HUGHES, Miss Carr’s Children’s Services; MONINNE GRIFFITH, Marriage Equality; JACKIE ARMSTRONG, Mothers’ Union of Ireland; KRYSTIAN FIKERT, MyMind; AINE LYNCH, National Parents Council (Primary); ORLA O’CONNOR, National Women’s Council of Ireland; MARY CUNNINGHAM, National Youth Council of Ireland; CAROLE GOULDING, No Name Club; PATRICIA CONBOY, Older and Bolder; OLIVIA O’LEARY; MAEVE LEWIS, One in Four; KAREN KIERNAN, One Family; FRANCES BYRNE, OPEN; Patricia Lee, Parentstop; Pat Clarke,* Down Syndrome Ireland; SANDRA BYRNE, Violence Against Women Programme, Pavee Point; PETER Mac DONALD, The Body Shop Ireland; PÓL Ó MÚRCHÚ, Solicitor; Prof NÓIRÍN HAYES, Centre for Social and Educational Research, DIT; Prof URSULA KILKELLY, UCC; FIONA NEARY, Rape Crisis Network Ireland; ALLISON GRAHAM, Saoirse Women’s Refuge; GARY BRODERICK, Saol Project Ltd; JOHN LAWLOR, Scouting Ireland; JOE O’TOOLE; Senator JILLIAN VAN TURNHOUT; SHANE DOWNER, Arc Adoption; SHEILA NUNAN, INTO; DENISE LYONS, President of Social Care Ireland; ANNE McKEOWN, Sonas Housing Association; ADAM HARRIS, Spunout Youth Leadership Panel; Sr STANISLAUS KENNEDY; MARIE THERESE MULHOLLAND, St Patrick’s University Hospital; TOBY WOLFE, Start Strong; KILLIAN FORDE, The Integration Centre; DES ALLEN, Tennis Ireland; INEKE DURVILLE, Irish Association of Social Workers; MARGARET DROMEY, Treoir; Prof PAT DOLAN, Unesco Child and Family Research Centre; PETER POWER, Unicef Ireland; WAYNE DIGNAM, Irish Foster Care Association; VICKY RATTIGAN, Young Christian Workers; MIKE KELLY, Young Irish Film Makers; ELEANOR McCLOREY, Youngballymun; SIOBHÁN O’DWYER, Youth Advocate Programmes Ireland; Dr PATRICK J BURKE, Youth Work Ireland PAUL GILLIGAN, C/o Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – I’ve finally tracked down the present Government’s source of mystic wisdom: “The family as it is now is a unit of limited relationships, self-enclosing and exclusive . . . The family as a means of inward security is a source of disorder and social catastrophe” (Jiddu Krishnamurti). And we all thought it was the bankers and the government! I shall vote No. – Yours, etc,




*This article was edited on November 7th 2012