Children's Rights Referendum - Not Sometime, Now!
Dublin, 23 June 2010 - An opinion poll launched today by the Saving Childhood group has shown that an overwhelming majority of Irish people support the proposed referendum on children's rights. The Saving Childhood group comprises Barnardos, CARI, the Children's Rights Alliance, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the ISPCC, the Irish Association of Young People in Care, One in Four and Rape Crisis Network Ireland. The poll, undertaken by market research agency Behaviour and Attitudes, examines public attitudes to the proposed referendum on children's rights. The organisations are calling on the Government to fulfil its 2006 promise and set a date for the children's rights referendum as a matter of urgency.
In a statement, the Saving Childhood group said: "The results of the poll show that were a referendum to be held now 62% of adults would vote in favour of it, 1% would vote against it and 37% said they did not know how they would vote. There can be no greater indication that Ireland is ready to stand up for children's rights now. Childhood is a precious time; children must be protected and their rights promoted to ensure that they are consistently treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. We have a plethora of reports highlighting the neglect, abuse and exploitation that happens when children's voices are silenced and their best interests ignored."
"As a society we have failed to prioritise children in any meaningful way. Children in Ireland have played second fiddle to the agendas of individuals, institutions and policies for too long. It is time to redress the balance. Children's rights must take their rightful place in the legal foundation of our State. The time for empty promises is long past, the debate for children long overdue; Government must set a date for the referendum on children's rights."
Speaking at the launch, Senior Counsel, Mary Ellen Ring, said: "The Constitution represents the bedrock of the social and legal mores of our society; it is the document that should represent the core principles that we as a nation stand for. The conspicuous absence of distinct children's rights in the Irish Constitution represents the ongoing failure of our society to adequately prioritise children. If we are serious about protecting children and ensuring their rights, changing the Constitution must be our first step."
Solicitor Catherine Ghent added: "In reality, children's voices are largely absent from the legal system where many serious decisions are made about their lives. Strengthening children's rights in the Constitution is fundamental to enabling children have an input into this decision making and will make a very practical difference to children's lives. We cannot continue to sideline children in processes that affect them; we must begin a new chapter, engaging with children's views and putting their best interests at the centre of legal processes affecting them."
Fergus Finlay, Barnardos' CEO, speaking on behalf of the Saving Childhood group said: "There can be no further excuses; Government must fulfil the promise they made in 2006 and set a date for a referendum to make sure children's rights are included at the heart of Irish law."
Notes to editor
The Behaviour and Attitudes survey was conducted through face to face interviews with 877 adults in 63 sampling locations across the country. The sample is representative as quotas were controlled according to gender, age, social class and region:
- Only 29% of respondents are aware that a referendum on children's rights is likely to be held later this year or early 2011.
- However, 83% indicate that they are likely to vote in such a referendum.
- When asked their likelihood of voting in favour or against the insertion of children's rights into the Constitution, 62% of adults would vote in favour, 1% would be against such a move with 37% saying they didn't know how they would vote.
When specific questions were put to participants:
- 92% agree that children should have right to such protection and care as is necessary for their safety and welfare.
- 89% agree that children's rights should be clearly laid out in the Constitution.
- 89% agree that the State should be able to intervene in families where children are at risk.
- 87% agree that the State should intervene in families with great care for the rights of both children and family.
- 81% agree that children's and parent's rights should be balanced in the Constitution.