Referendum opponents emerge
Opponents of the upcoming Children's Rights referendum have labelled the State's "abysmal track record" as a major reason for opposing more duties to be transferred to the State.
Abuse survivor Tom Cronin expressed his doubt over the State’s ability to deal with the issue of child protection, based on it’s track record.
“In my experience, coming through institutions myself and in recent time with the issue of redress for victims of abuse, the State has an abysmal track record in the area of child protection,” said Mr Cronin, who is secretary of the Cork-based Irish Survivors of Abuse International.
“They don’t have the mechanisms to deal with children and no department should be trusted. If I was a politician I wouldn’t trust myself with the current political climate.”
Mr Cronin called for the establishment of a well-funded independent, statutory body to deal with child protection and safety and urged for more resources to be placed into social workers so that 24 hour services can be provided to protect vulnerable children.
Mr Cronin confirmed that he intends to campaign on the issue through the referendum but acknowledged that the vote will probably be passed, even at this early stage.
“We’ll probably pass it and then you will only see the effects in the odd headline and there will still be the blasé attitude that is currently being taken with this issue.”
Former MEP Kathy Sinnott has also voiced her concern over the amendment, which she said “weakens the current wording of the Constitution which protects responsible parents and give the State a role in determining the destiny of a child.”
Ms Sinnott confirmed she was currently seeking legal advice on the wording and the effect it would have on parents of vulnerable children, such as those with special needs or those from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds.
“It is not an improvement on the Constitution,” said Ms Sinnott.
“Currently when the parents fail, the State must oblige in the protection of the child, but this amendment which has the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child at it’s base weakens the language.”
”We are all agreed that the protection of children of children is the most important thing but we must also protect responsible parents as well. Why would we give a neglectful State, with the track record it has, more duties?”
While Ms Sinnott didn’t confirm if she would be campaigning on the issue, she did state that she would be “doing what I can to try alert people to what is in the wording.”
Cork South Central TD, Jerry Buttimer, speaking in the Dáil, insisted that the referendum will “reassert the view that the best place for a child is within his or her family.”
"However, I cannot overemphasise the fact that this is not always the case and that there will be instances when intervention will be necessary. It is incumbent on everyone in this House, irrespective of his or her political affiliations or views, to ensure that children are protected."
Mr Buttimer also highlighted that the amendment is necessary because of past failures on behalf of the State and the church to intervene on behalf of children.
“If we are to cherish all of our children equally, then the referendum must be passed,” said Mr Buttimer.
“If we fail to pass the referendum, it will not necessarily be a regressive step. It will, however, be a statement to the effect that the work done in the past 18 months on a cross-party basis has been worthless. That work is not worthless, it is worthwhile.”