Wednesday 8 October 2008
UNDER STRICT EMBARGO UNTIL: 17:00hrs Wednesday 8 October 2008
The Children’s Rights Alliance, during its second oral hearing before the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, has today said that there are over one million reasons (a reference to the number of children living in Ireland) to hold a children’s rights referendum and that it is ‘non-negotiable’. The Alliance also calls on the Committee, which has only weeks left before it is due to publish its recommendations, to focus on formulating a wording that will strengthen children’s rights within the Constitution. It should be noted that all of the political parties represented on the Committee committed to constitutional change, in respect of children’s rights, in their General Election manifestos in May 2007.
Jillian van Turnhout, the Alliance’s Chief Executive, says: ‘There are over one million children living in Ireland and their childhoods will not stand still while adults argue the merits of changing the Constitution; the Committee has over one million compelling reasons to get on with the job in hand. Children’s rights are not about driving a wedge between parents and their children. Parents and children are inextricably linked: you can’t be a parent without having a child. And we forget too often that it is the parent who champions their child’s rights. Inevitably, when children’s rights are not acknowledged, it places parents, particularly those who have a child with special needs or those who are struggling in their parenting role, under enormous pressure and stress. For the vast majority of families, strengthening children’s rights will keep families together rather than tear them apart. In the small number of cases where a child is failed by their parent or a conflict arises between the wishes of parents and the best interests of the child, the State needs to play a role to protect their best interests. Neglect and abuse cases, custody battles, parental child abduction and adoption cases may be rare and played out in the media as real life dramas, but at their centre are vulnerable children who depend on the State to safeguard their rights and ultimately their futures.’
The Alliance will meet the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children for the second time today and will outline the constitutional blocks to strengthening children’s rights and the ways in which constitutional change will help Ireland become one of the best places in the world to be a child.
Ms van Turnhout continues: ‘During the previous 11 public hearings, the Committee’s questions have almost entirely focused on the narrower proposals on child protection rather than on the wider children’s rights amendment. The protection of children is, of course, extremely important, but if we are to succeed in that aim and ensure the best interests of the child, we must also give children a voice and ensure that they have a respected position in society. How many more generations of children will grow up before politicians vindicate their rights? This is not a theoretical exercise; rather, it has the potential to have a real and positive impact on the lives of all children and their families, now and in the future, and it is non-negotiable.’
The Children’s Rights Alliance, campaigns for the rights and needs of all children under 18 years. It is a coalition of over 80 non-governmental organisations, all of which are committed to the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Ireland. Many of its member organisations are prominent in the children’s sector – working directly with children on a daily basis across the country.
For further information, please contact:
Carys Thomas, Communications Director
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 0877702845; Fax: (01) 662 9355
Notes to Editor:
1. Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive, and Maria Corbett, Policy Director, will be presenting to the Committee and their presentation will be available at www.childrensrights.ie from 5pm; embargoed copies of the presentation are available from the Communications Director.
2. All related Alliance publications can be found at http://www.childrensrights.ie/viewpubs.php?go=cat, including:
Open Letter to Taoiseach: Open Letter to an Taoiseach: Children's Rights Referendum