**PRESS STATEMENT **
TIME IS RIPE FOR REFERENDUM ON CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
By Jillian van Turnhout
“The Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children will publish its final report tomorrow on Tuesday 16 February, which will include an all-party agreement on the wording of an amendment to the Constitution to strengthen children’s rights.
“The Children’s Rights Alliance firmly believes that we need to foster a new attitude to children in Irish society. Strengthening children’s rights in the Constitution, which is both a legal document and a reflection of society’s values, will vindicate a child’s right to protection and to have his or her voice heard. Public appetite for such a change is evident from the response to the findings of the Ryan and Murphy Reports, among others. The time is ripe for a referendum on children’s rights.
“Without a strong constitutional amendment, children will remain unequal and the State’s hands tied. The Alliance hopes that the wording of the Committee’s proposed amendment will provide constitutional recognition for the rights of all children as individuals, which will allow the courts to make child-focused decisions that will be in their best interests.
“We want an Ireland that cherishes all the children in the State equally. We believe that, at a minimum, the wording should include the right of the child to such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being; to know his or her identity in a manner consistent with his or her welfare; and to be heard, having regard to his or her age and maturity.
“Furthermore, the wording should recalibrate Article 42.5 by creating an equitable standard of protection for all children and by addressing the roadblocks that are currently impeding the effective operation of the child protection, care and adoption systems. The State must be sufficiently empowered to intervene in a proportionate, and timely, manner to support families in fulfilling their duty to vindicate the rights of their child.”
Jillian van Turnhout
Notes to Editor:
- Budget 2010 committed €3 million for 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 committee’s work over the past two years.