For immediate release
In an unprecedented step, Ireland has voted by referendum to change its Constitution to strengthen children’s rights and better protect children. After nearly 20 years of vigorous campaigning for constitutional reform, the Children’s Rights Alliance is delighted to finally welcome the passing of the 31st amendment to the Irish Constitution in respect of children and their rights. This is a vital step on Ireland’s journey to become one of the best places in the world to be a child.
Alliance Chief Executive, Tanya Ward,speaking from Dublin Castle central count centre, said: “It is a very good day for children. It is an historic day that will provide the Irish State with the legal foundation to provide better supports for vulnerable children and their families. The people have spoken and we now have a mandate to strengthen our laws, policies and services for generations of children to come. This result will now allow us to put at the heart of the Irish Constitution and our child protection system a solid foundation for the Irish legal system to make child-centred decisions about children. I would like to thank our members for putting their full energies into this campaign and our fellow partners within the Yes for Children campaign: Barnardos, the Irish Sociey for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and Campaign for Children."
The Children’s Referendum is part of the Government’s child protection reform package. The Referendum allows for new laws to protect children, support families, reduce inequalities in adoption and recognise children in their own right. According to the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Irish electorate has gone some way in addressing its damning history of child abuse by voting ‘Yes’ in yesterday’s referendum. The Alliance also found it poignant given that Ireland’s closest neighbour, the UK, is currently struggling to comprehend the scale of the child abuse scandal engulfing its national institutions.
Tanya Ward continued: “The Children’s Referendum has been passed, which demonstrates that, as a nation, we are starting to turn a corner away from our dark past. We can never forget what happened, but this symbolises the beginnings of a culture shift in our attitudes to children. The Ryan Report did something very important for us in Irish society. It documented the consequences of institutions putting their own interests before those of the children they were supposed to be caring for. It uncovered the human cost of not listening to children when they tell us they are victims of abuse. We will never be able to take away what happened to children in industrial and religious institutions in Ireland. And we won’t be able to protect every child from abuse in all situations, in the future. However, we do now have a constitution that offers clear and strong legal protection for our children.”
Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward concluded: “Today is a day for celebration, but tomorrow the Alliance will be back at work lobbying Government in relation to seven new commitments, including a special and comprehensive Children’s Bill."
The Alliance said it was disappointed with the low turnout but believed that controversy surrounding the Supreme Court Judgment in the final days of the referendum campaign and muted media coverage had influenced voters’ decision to stay at home.
For further information, please contact:
Carys Thomas, Communications and Public Affairs Director
Tel: 01 6629400
Notes to Editor:
The new amendment will ensure that:
- The Constitution can take a child-centred approach to the protection of all children, some of whom experience unspeakable abuse. It will place an onus on the State to better support families.
- Up to 2,000 children, currently in long-term State care, will be given the opportunity to be adopted and afforded a second chance at a stable and permanent family, where there is no prospect of them returning to their birth family.
- Child protection, care, adoption, guardianship, custody and access decisions will be based on what is in the best interests of the child.
- Judges will listen to the views of children when making decisions in child protection, care, adoption, guardianship, custody and access cases.
- It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give children specific recognition in the Constitution and to make the State more accountable to protect children’s rights.
The Children’s Rights Alliance is part of Yes for Children, a national campaign also led by Barnardos, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and Campaign for Children, which all campaigned for a Yes vote in the Children’s Referendum.