Children's Rights in Ireland: Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?

Published date: 
1 Apr 2009



‘Investing in children is the only sensible economic option’ said Jillian van Turnhout, the Children’s Rights Alliance’s Chief Executive in her speech to nearly 200 high-ranking civil servants, political representatives and NGO chief executives, at the Alliance’s major symposium in Dublin Castle today.  

As Ireland braces itself for its second Budget in only six months, Mrs van Turnhout used the platform to declare that investing in children would save the economy: ‘We live in uncertain and cynical times.  We face a deeply worrying deficit in our public finances.  The Alliance is not naïve, and we know Tuesday’s Budget will be harsh, but upholding children’s rights makes economic sense.  Which costs more, for example: maintaining and developing early years’ education or not doing so at all? Let us not forget that for every euro spent in early years’ education, a return of over €7 can be expected.  Investing in children reduces criminality and improves the life chances of all, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.  Cuts in education and health services directly affecting children are a false economy; the smart money is making Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child'.

Addressing the symposium, called Children’s Rights in Ireland: Are We There Yet? Are We There yet? Are We There Yet?, the President of Ireland Mary McAleese, said: ‘We know that in these difficult economic times, the environment is changing dramatically for children as financial pressure and job losses increase the anxiety levels in their homes.  They are not immune.  They are not hermetically sealed off from those anxieties.  They need our reassurance now more than ever and they need space in which to express what it is they know and what it is we need to hear from them so that we can best protect and vindicate their rights, their childhoods.’

The aim of the symposium is to explore international best practice to promote the realisation and protection of children’s rights in Ireland.  Today’s event is also a call to action: both the President of Ireland Mary McAleese and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews TD joined delegates in signing the Alliance’s ‘pledge wall’ to ‘value children’s rights and pledge to work towards making Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child’.  The Alliance, a coalition of over 90 NGOs working to secure the rights and needs of children in Ireland, believes this declaration will galvanise leadership in the months and years to come, and reaffirm children’s rights and needs as a priority for the Irish State, during these difficult economic times.   

Commenting on the work of the symposium, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews TD, said: 'The gathering of such an esteemed group of experts on children’s rights from home and abroad is testament to the work and dedication of the Children’s Rights Alliance. Today’s programme will give real life to the debate on children’s rights and will no doubt inform politicians, government policy makers and NGOs on the options and choices that will lead to enhanced recognition and protection of the child.  I look forward to the concrete proposals that I am confident will emanate from today’s conference.  We all need to challenge our perceptions and in some cases prejudices when it comes to portraying children in Ireland today.  I trust that this conference will assist us to achieve this end.'  

The symposium will offer solutions, and highlight good practice in Ireland; delegates will hear from international speakers, such as Maria Herczog, a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – to which the Irish State is accountable; Ted Lempert, President of Children Now in California, who has been successful in putting children’s rights firmly on the Californian political agenda, and keeping it there despite the State’s impending bankruptcy; and Phil Beadle, award winning teacher, journalist, broadcaster and author who is best known for his controversial Channel 4 programme, ‘Can’t Read, Can’t Write’ and ‘The Unteachables’.

The Irish State is due to submit its latest report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, this April.  This report will document progress made in implementing the UN Committee’s ‘Concluding Observations and Recommendations’, including the need to strengthen the rights of children in Ireland’s Constitution.

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


Click here to read the speech from the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.

Click here to read Jillian van Turnhout's speech.

Click here to read the speech from the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews T.D.

Click here to access the Council of Europe's Corporal punishment campaign

Link to the Alliance Animation on the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Children's Rights Alliance