ALLIANCE RESPONSE TO O’ROURKE STATEMENT
ON CHILDREN’S RIGHTS REFERENDUM
**PRESS STATEMENT BY Jillian van Turnhout**
“It has been reported that the Chair of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, Mary O’Rourke TD, has confirmed that the Committee will finalise its report on 25 January, following all-party agreement on the wording of an amendment to the Constitution to strengthen children’s rights.
This is excellent news. Strengthening children’s rights in the Constitution is our only viable option if we are to ensure that the State is committed – as parents are – to the best interests and protection of children. It is our only viable option if we are to give children a voice in their affairs, so that at least, as adults, we stop and listen to them.
The Children’s Rights Alliance firmly believes that we need to foster a new attitude to children in Irish society: the Constitution is both a legal document and a reflection of society’s values. The aim is to develop a new societal attitude to children through the successful passage by public vote of a children’s rights amendment, which will vindicate a child’s right to protection and to have his or her voice heard. Public appetite for such a change is evident from the response to the findings of the Ryan and Murphy Reports, among others.
But without a constitutional amendment, not all children are equal and the State’s hands are tied. The Alliance hopes that the wording of the Committee’s proposed amendment will provide constitutional recognition for the rights of all children as individuals. This will allow the courts greater flexibility when balancing competing rights.
We want an Ireland that cherishes all the children in the State equally. We believe that, at a minimum, the wording should include the right of the child to such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being; to know his or her identity in a manner consistent with his or her welfare; and to be heard, having regard to his or her age and maturity. Furthermore, the wording should recalibrate Article 42.5 by creating an equitable standard of protection for all children and by addressing the roadblocks that are currently impeding the effective operation of the child care, protection and adoption systems. The State must be sufficiently empowered to intervene in a proportionate, and timely, manner to support families in fulfilling their duty to vindicate the rights of their child.
The Alliance has been advocating for constitutional reform since its establishment in 1995 and has worked intensively to influence the Committee’s work over the past two years. The Children’s Rights Alliance awaits the Committee’s final recommendations in January and is confident that the Committee will act accordingly.”
Jillian van Turnhout
Notes to Editor
- Budget 2010 had a commitment of €3 million for a constitutional referendum on the rights of the child in 2010.
- For an overview of the Committee, their work and the related work of the Alliance go to: http://www.childrensrights.ie/files/DRAFTBriefingNoteJointCommitteeConst...
- The Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children was established on 22 November 2007, in line with a commitment in the June 2007 Programme for Government to deepen consensus on the Twenty Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2007. The terms of reference for the Committee are to examine, and consider, the proposal for a constitutional amendment to strengthen children’s rights contained in the Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2007, and to make recommendations to the two houses of the Oireachtas.
- The Committee was originally due to report its recommendations in a final report four months from the date of its establishment. However, this deadline was extended four times and the Committee is now due to present its final report on 29 January 2010. The Committee has issued two reports to date.
- Each of the political parties’ General Election manifestos in May 2007 included a commitment to strengthen children’s rights in the Constitution.