“It has been a long time coming, but the Children’s Rights Alliance is delighted that today’s publication of the final report of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children sees us progressing along the road towards making Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Crucially, the Third Report includes all-party agreement on a proposed wording for a constitutional amendment to strengthen children’s rights. This, in itself, is a significant step forward. We must not let this report gather dust on a shelf. We call on Government to show their commitment to children and name a date for a referendum on children’s rights. Progress to date in relation to the previous two reports of the Committee has been unacceptably slow.
“The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes the publication of the Committee’s Report, which brings us closer to our goal of securing constitutional change that will make a real and positive difference to all children in Ireland. At the most fundamental level, we want each and every child to have a decent childhood; the Constitution should enable this to happen – it should not be a barrier. We need only look at today’s headlines: the Bishops in Rome responding to clerical abuse, a father convicted of horrific abuse of his son, as evidence that a children’s rights referendum is an absolute essential.
“The Alliance would like to thank each and every member of the Committee for their work and dedication, and for their contribution to this important debate. In particular, we wish to thank the Chair, Mary O’Rourke TD, for her personal commitment to making children’s rights a reality.
“The Alliance welcomes the recommendation by the Committee that our laws and services for children should be ‘in accordance with the State’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’. The Alliance believes the thrust of the Committee’s report reflects the recommendations for constitutional reform set out in our submissions, including:
- providing constitutional recognition for the rights of all children as individuals, including a child’s right to have his or her voice heard, having regard to his or her age and maturity; and a child’s right to such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being.
- allowing the courts to make child-focused decisions that will be in their best interests.
- recalibrating Article 42.5:
- by creating an equitable standard of protection for all children, including the right to have their welfare regarded as paramount;
- to sufficiently empower the State to intervene in a proportionate, and timely, manner to support families in fulfilling their duty to vindicate the rights of their child.
- to address the roadblocks that are currently impeding the effective operation of the child protection, care and adoption systems; and
- to allow for the adoption of children of marital families where the child has been abandoned, and where this is in the best interests of the child.
“The Alliance will hold a consultation meeting with its 90 member organisations to review the Committee’s report and proposed wording.”
Jillian van Turnhout
Notes to Editor:
- Budget 2010 committed €3 million to 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/BriefingNoteJtCommConstAmend0110.pdf
- 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 report four months from the date of its establishment. However, this deadline was extended five times. The Committee has issued two interim reports to date.
- Each of the political parties’ General Election manifestos in May 2007, the Programme for Government, and the Renewed Programme for Government included a commitment to strengthen children’s rights in the Constitution.
- The Alliance has been advocating for constitutional reform since its establishment in 1995 and has worked intensively to influence the Joint Committee’s work over the past two years.