Published date: 
1 Oct 2009

Friday 2 October 2009: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On the day of the Lisbon Treaty referendum vote (2 October), the Children’s Rights Alliance has its sights set on another referendum.  Today, the Alliance publishes a letter sent to members of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, reminding them of their obligation, in two weeks time (16 October), to deliver a final report that will recommend a referendum to strengthen children’s rights in the Constitution.  The Alliance was prompted to write to the Committee after a public session on 23 September 2009 in which Committee members acknowledged that they had reached an impasse in their work. 

Mrs Jillian van Turnhout, the Alliance’s Chief Executive, says: “While we are all rightly engrossed in the ins and outs of the Lisbon Treaty referendum, it is the duty of the Committee members to now focus on the next referendum: the children’s rights referendum.  The Committee has less than two weeks to produce its report to the Oireachtas on 16 October and they will be failing the children of Ireland if they do not call for a referendum to strengthen children’s rights.  In its letter, the Alliance echoes calls from Committee members that party politics be set aside and that they work together to move beyond rhetoric.  A referendum is our only viable option if we are to truly ensure that the State is committed to children’s rights.”

The Alliance is intensifying its work and is gearing up for a series of activities in the run up to 16 October, including the hosting of a panel discussion with representatives of the Committee and Alliance member organisations, comprising over 90 organisations concerned with children’s rights.  The panel discussion will provide opportunities for representatives from each political party to outline their party’s perspective on a proposed amendment. 

Mrs van Turnhout adds:  “It is essential that we make children visible in our Constitution—the fundamental law of the country.  It is high-time that the State takes proper account of children’s rights.  Children continue to be treated differently in law depending on their parents’ marital status; and each and every day children are negatively affected by the current constitutional provisions.  For example, there are children in Ireland embroiled in custody and adoption battles whose interests are invisible; children who are abandoned with no hope of adoption; and children who are in need of protection who must wait until their situation deteriorates before the State can help.  Vulnerable children, caught up in these situations, depend on the State to safeguard their rights and ultimately their future.  But without a constitutional amendment, the State’s hands are tied.”

In the letter written by Mrs van Turnhout, she argues: “The final hurdle is fast approaching.  We urge Committee members to live up to their commitments and declarations made in the course of their deliberations.  Each of the political parties’ General Election manifestos in May 2007 and the current Programme for Government commits to strengthening children’s constitutional rights.  Constitutional reform is essential to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child and we ask members to now play their role to make this happen, and to issue a recommendation on 16 October to hold a referendum, without delay, to strengthen children’s rights in the Constitution.” 


For further information, please contact:
Carys Thomas, Communications Director
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087-7702845; Fax: (01) 662 9355

Notes to Editor:

  1.  A copy of the Alliance letter can be found at
  2. The Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children was established on 22 November 2007 with an original timeframe of four months, to report in March 2008.  The Committee was subsequently afforded two extensions, with a revised deadline for its final report on 16 October 2009.
  3. A transcript of the 23 September 2009 hearing can be accessed at:
  4.  The panel discussion on 8 October will include: Mary O’Rourke TD, Fianna Fáil, and Committee Chairperson; Alan Shatter TD, Fine Gael; Senator Deirdre de Burca, Green Party; Senator Alex White, Labour Party; and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin.
  5. Alliance submissions on the constitutional amendment include:
Children's Rights Alliance