Today former Supreme Court Justice Hugh O’Flaherty wrote in the Irish Independent that we do not need a referendum on Children’s right’s.
As Justice O’Flaherty points the aim of this referendum is what an Oireachtas committee in 2007 set out,
- Enshrine and enhance the protection of the rights of children.
- Express recognition of children’s rights.
- In its laws and actions the State shall cherish all the children of the State equally and the State should not discriminate as between children.
- Protection of a child at risk — children of marital and non-marital families to be treated identically.
- Welfare of the child to be of paramount consideration.
- Extension of the right to adoption where the child’s welfare so requires.
- Provision for education, including free primary education.
- The rights of parents to be preserved except in exceptional circumstances.
- The State’s laws and services to accord with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Minister for Children, Francis Fitzgerald, was quick to challenge him on this assertion, and she is not alone. Olivia O’Leary wrote a fantastic piece on Friday on adoption on the Campaign for Children website setting out a very good reason for this referendum: Adoption.
Why should the children of legally married parents have less rights to adoption than other children? Why should over 1,600 children in Ireland live in institutions or have only foster parents, no matter how good, because the adoption laws here, taking their lead from the constitution, say so. The laws say that the child of married parents can only be placed for adoption where it is shown to the court that exceptional circumstances exist and their parents have failed in their duties towards them and will continue to fail until the child reaches 18 years. As a result it is almost impossible for them to be adopted. I don’t know of any other country in the European Union where this is the case. It is wrong.
The time for Children’s right to be second to the family should be gone. It was 20 years ago that this referendum was first called for and we have been promised this referendum since 2006 and it is finally close at hand, so why give up on it?
Why not give Children the highest protection possible in this country by putting them in the Constitution?
A countries constitution is normally a good guide to how a country treats it citizen’s, and the fact that we include protection of the most vulnerable in our society will be a good thing. It also mean that our children will not be ignored by the highest law in this land.
So I must disagree with the Former Justice and say We Need this Referendum and we need it soon!
If you are interested in this issue and want to get involved in the campaign, do check out Campaign For Children