Saturday voting for children's rights poll
The Government has published the wording of the question being put to the Irish electorate on children’s rights on Saturday 10 November, along with draft legislation on what will be implemented should the vote be passed.
Publishing the wording, Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, insisted the Government was the first in 20 years to act on reports from various bodies and committees.
"Since taking office my Department and I have been working with the Attorney General to make the transition from an Oireachtas committee proposal, to a robust constitutional wording,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
“On Saturday 10 November we will hold one of the most significant referenda in the history of the state. We will put forward a proposed amendment which would represent a major and historic change. This amendment proposes to include a new standalone article in our Constitution, Article 42A, titled ‘Children’.”
The referendum is set to address three issues in the constitution, specifically issues around adoption and the rights of older children to be heard in a legal context. Draft legislation on new adoption provisions were published last night.
“The referendum will also bring to an end the current constitutional situation where children are treated differently on the basis of their parents' marital status, when it comes to issues such as adoption,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
The new legislation on adoption will include provisions on voluntary placement, foster care as a result of persistent parental failures and the role of the high court in these matters.
The announcement of the wording was welcomed by other political parties, with several Cork government politicians expressing their satisfaction with the wording and timing of the vote ahead of the canvass trail. The Dáil will sit for four days next week to debate provisions of the referendum and accompanying legislation.
Fianna Fáil confirmed they will be canvassing for a yes vote while Sinn Féin is to seek legal advice on the wording to ensure amendments are not required.
Late on Wednesday evening former MEP Kathy Sinnott stated that children with special needs would be better off with the current wording of the Constitution than the wording proposed. Ms Sinnott cited that the United Nations' Charter of Children's Rights was the basis for the current proposed amendment.
A Referendum Commission is to be established by the Government, which has launched an information website at childrensreferendum.ie and information booklets will be sent to each home.
Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution
PROPOSED NEW ARTICLE 42A
The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.
1° In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.
2° Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.
Provision shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.
1° Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings-
(i) brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or
(ii) concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.
2° Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.