Children’s Organisations Call for Action on Constitutional Amendment (Open Letter)

Published date: 
23 Jan 2009

January 2009

Children’s Organisations Call for Action on Constitutional Amendment

We, the undersigned welcome Deputy Mary O’Rourke’s comments that there must be a referendum for the insertion of specific children’s rights into the Irish Constitution to ensure children are protected. In her capacity as Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, Deputy O’Rourke is in the ideal position to advance this referendum which we and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, amongst others, have continuously called for.

Currently, any rights enjoyed by the child under the Constitution or in legislation must be interpreted in line with the rights of the family, based on marriage. Under Article 42.5 of the Constitution, the State can intervene where parents have failed in their physical and moral duty towards their children but only in ‘exceptional circumstances'. While we recognise and promote that the family is the best protector of children’s rights and welfare in most cases, nevertheless there are children for whom the family home is not always a safe place. Surely the circumstances in the Roscommon case illustrate the need for children to be fully protected and their voices to be heard by all authorities and within the court system. 

We eagerly await the final report from this Committee due in April and call again for a referendum to insert specific children’s rights into the Constitution – our children deserve no less than the right to be protected and to a childhood free from abuse.

Yours sincerely,
Fergus Finlay, Chief Executive, Barnardos
Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive, Children’s Rights Alliance
Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, Chief Executive, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
Ashley Balbirnie, Chief Executive, ISPCC
Mary Cunningham, Director, National Youth Council of Ireland
Maeve Lewis, Executive Director, One in Four
Fiona Neary, Executive Director, Rape Crisis Network Ireland
Diarmuid Kearney, Chief Executive, Youth Work Ireland


Note to Editors:
Members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children are:
Mary O’Rourke (FF)
Michael Noonan (FG)
Brendan Howlin (Labour)
Thomas Byrne (FF)
Olwyn Enright (FG)
Paul Gogarty (Green)
Dara Calleary (FF)
Dan Neville (FG)
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Sinn Fein)
Seán Ó Fearghaíl (FF)
Alan Shatter (FG)
Michael Woods (FF

Children's Rights Alliance