Why I am voting Yes on Saturday

Due to work I cannot take part in Yes For Children’s Big Canvass today so here is my contribution.

For the second time this country is being asked to vote on a Saturday. This time it is on Children’s Rights. We are being asked if we want to delete the current Section 5 of Article 42 and replace it with a new Article 42A. See Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012 (PDF)

This is an important amendment to the Irish Constitution. It will be the first time we will explicitly mentioning Children’s Rights in the Irish Constitution. This was first called for 20 years ago, so it is a long time coming.

This amendment is very important for the Children of Ireland. It will ensure that Children in long term care can be adopted. It will give the state more responsibility (NOT Power) towards the children of this country. It will ensure that Children’s best interest is put first and where appropriate the Child’s own wishes will have be taken into account for the first time by the courts.

This referendum on its own will not change a lot, but it will underpin a lot of the changes occurring at the moment. From the creation of the Child and Family Support Agency to the Children First Guidelines. And it will also give a statement of us as a people on how we want our children to be treated. It is for these reasons I am voting Yes. We have a poor record of looking after those who marginalised in this society and this is a way to start changing that. There are many other reasons to vote Yes. See YesForChildren.ie for more reasons!

See also Gregg Kelly’s piece on Spunout.ie for more reasons to vote Yes

This is one of the first referendum’s in the state where every major party and nearly every TD and Senator (bar one) is supporting. It has the unprecedented backing of chldren’s groups, parents groups, foster groups, various other NGO’s, Trade Unions, legal bodies and religious leaders. For the first time in any sort of election the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) has recommened that its members vote for this referendum.

I have yet to hear a good reason for a No Vote. Those against this referendum have mainly spurious arguments about Parental Rights (which the Conference of Catholic Bishops say is false), forced adoption (never going to happen), vaccinations (also not going happen), birth control (not a hope) and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (your seriously scrapping the barrel here).

Saturday will be an important vote for another reason no matter what your view on this referendum. It will be about whether or not we as a country will bother to vote on Saturday. So for that reason it is important that between 9am and 10pm you go out and vote.

Its your Constitution, Your Decision, Your Vote! So Vote!

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Children’s Rights Referendum Public Meeting.

Fine Gael have organised a public information meeting on the Children’s Rights Referendum on Monday November 5th at 8:00pm in the Imperial Hotel, South Mall.

Speakers on the night include:

  • Simon Coveney TD, Minister For Agriculture, Food and the Marine
  • Mr Geoffrey Shannon, Government Special Rapporteur on Child Protection
  • Mr Joe O’Toole, Yes for Children
  • Ms Sinead McKee, ISPCC
  • Ms Gwen Healy, UCC

This is the perfect event to get more information on the referendum to help make up your mind before voting on Saturday 10th.

Remember its Your Constitution, Your Decision, Your Vote!

Facebook event here

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Diary of A Canvasser: Children’s Right’s Referendum

So it’s the second Referendum of 2012 and it is one we have been waiting for! While polls show that the Yes Side is a good bit ahead,  a Red C Poll for the National Youth Council of Ireland last week put the the Yes campaign on 74% and 4% against. The remaining 22% are undecided/Don’t know. While this is good news, there is a word of warning number of people who are informed about the issues. The poll has these numbers:

  • 14% say they are extremely knowledgeable about the Children’s Referendum
  • 19% say they are quite knowledgeable
  • 39% say they are not very knowledgeable
  • 22% say they are not at all knowledgeable

Its because of this Groups in favour must be out there making there points to ensure that they get their point across before the No side really get going!

So who is out campaigning on this? On the Yes Side we have:

  • Fine Gael
  • Labour
  • Fianna Fail
  • Sinn Fein
  • ULA
  • All independent TD’s and Senators
  • Yes For Children (composed of ISPCC, Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance and Campaign for Children)

On the No Side you have:

  • Alliance of Parents Against the State
  • Two Right Now
  • Parents for Children
  • John Water’s
  • Vincent Browne

So it does seem a bit one sided! But the Referendums last October was similar and we all know how that worked out for the Oireachtas Powers of Investigation Amendment.

So I have been out canvassing with Yes for Children and Young Fine Gael. With Yes for Children I took part in their canvass in Wilton (12th Oct) and Kinsale (13th Oct) and boy are these people good. Most of their canvassers are workers and volunteers with children’s charities and certainly passionate on this. As you can guess the majority of the responses were quite positive with some people questioning the cost, timing and a few people thinking we were voting on abortion (not yet!!!).

Kinsale was a very similar and we were blessed with the weather and certainly the people of Kinsale were very interested in what we were doing and supportive. One of or two people were against the amendment, but that is the joy of a democracy! One person was against the amendment because it didnt go far enough, which was an interesting point!

With YFG it has mainly been an information campaign on campus, but a door to door canvass is also under way, which I have been able to partake in yet. Hopefully that will change!

With today being the last day to register to vote, the campaign enters the final stretch. With TV3 hosting a debate next week, hopefully more coverage of the referendum will follow.

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Children’s Rights Referendum, Saturday November 10th

An Toaiseach Enda Kenny has announced that the Children’s Rights Referendum will take place on Saturday November 10th.

More details, including who will chair the referendum commission, will be announced tomorrow following the briefing of opposition leaders.

This will be the second referendum to be held on a Saturday. The first one was the second Nice Treaty referendum.

We have waited a long time for this referendum and while we still await the exact wording, the announcement of a date for the referendum is an important step. We can now, hopefully, look forward to a day when Children’s rights will be included in Bunreacht na hEireann

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We Do Need a Referendum on Children’s Right


Austria, Vienna, Stephansplatz This shot was t...
Austria, Vienna, Stephansplatz This shot was taken on Nations Children's Rights Day", on 'Stephansplatz', in Vienna, Austria. Thisone seems to be the first ever-oganized 'Smart Mob' on such occasion, although it was somewhat misnamed to be a flashmob'. Participants where asked to to lift any piece of white cloth during that time. This 'smart mob' happened for 60 seconds, beginning at 14:22 local time (13:22_Z). See also: Children's rights movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

She wrote:

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

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Challenging “The Way It Is”

Frances Fitzgerald TD
Frances Fitzgerald TD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With a lot of focus on the banks, the debt crisis and the upcoming Treaty Referendum, once again the issue of Children’s right gets pushed back.

We are now awaiting the third version of the proposed wording of the Constitutional Referendum and that hasn’t emerged yet. Meanwhile many Children aren’t being taken into account as they have no rights in relation to The Family as defined by the Constitution.

With children in care from married families who cannot be adopted and the state afraid to act in some cases due to the Constitutional rights of the family children are being failed.

The state needs to buck up. It needs to protect children at all levels and it needs this amendment to do it.

The Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald is doing sterling work in keeping children to the fore and plans to challenge the status quo. She had the following to say at the Young Fine Gael National Conference back in February.

“We are nationally less concerned about the legacy of oversights,

mistakes, needs not met and care not given. Those failings are less headline-grabbing, less talked about and less obvious than abuse. And because they are less obvious they are more accepted.

We have come to accept that all children are not equal. We have come to accept that the children of the poor will stay poor and the children of the rich will stay rich. We have come to accept that the children of travellers will not live as long as the children of the settled. We have come to accept that the children of bad parents will suffer, while the children of good parents will prosper.

We have come to accept that awful phrase ‘that’s just the way it is’.

Well my department was created to change that phrase. The Taoiseach introduced a Minister for children specifically to challenge ‘the way it is’.

Around 9,000 young people leave school each year before taking the Leaving Certificate. The unemployment rate among early school leavers in 2009 was twice that of those who finished. That’s the way it is.

One in ten Irish children and adolescents suffer a mental heath

disorder. That’s the way it is.

The average age at which Irish teenagers being drinking is 14. Alcohol contributes to 50% of all youth offending and 50% of suicides. That’s the way it is.

I’ve made clear to my officials that second big challenge after

providing protection is to challenge ‘the way it is.’ Fundamentally that means providing opportunity. Equal opportunity. For every child. Equal opportunity to be healthy, happy, loved and fulfilled. “

Minister Fitzgerald also has a lot of work to do on Child Protection which she brought up at the recent Fine Gael Ard Fheis,

Everyone knows the economic shambles this government inherited from our predecessors. Everyone knows about the awful planning decisions, ill-judged taxes and pro-cyclical, election-focused economic policies that Fiannail used to drive this country onto the rocks.

People are not as aware of the shambles they left us in child protection.

No national framework for service delivery. No proper data collection. No standard methodology for assessing and referring cases. No needs-assessment for NGO funding. No linking up of HSE, community and voluntary agencies.

What we have found, in one word, is a disgrace.

Fixing this is going to take a long time. Luckily, we have the great advantage of working with dedicated, hard-working and committed people across every aspect of the sector. Rarely do you find a sector with such a mismatch between the dedication of its people and the incoherence of the system in which they operate.

Fixing this will require us to draw all of those people together in a system which puts children first.

Which I am doing.

Fixing this will require a national framework for child services.

Which we are developing


Fixing this needs law.

Which we are bringing in.

The heads of the Children First Bill are currently before the Oireachtas Health Committee and will hopefully be law before the end of the year.

A lot of steps have been taken, or started to be taken to try and get things right for Children in Ireland.

There a lot more issues that need to be fixed, but at least we are staring.

For more information on Children’s Right’s issue’s in Ireland check out Campaign for Children