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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30th Amendment to Constitution – Text

A lunchtime protest by dislocated workers was ...

The Bill amending the Constitution to allow Ireland to ratify the Fiscal Compact is now available on the Oireachtas Website (PDF).

The bill proposes inserting a new sub-section 10 to Article 29 which deals with foreign affairs. The new section will read as follows:

10° The State may ratify the Treaty on Stability, Coordination andGovernance in the Economic and Monetary Union done at Brussels on the 2nd day of March 2012. No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of the State under that Treaty or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by bodies competent under that Treaty from having the force of law in the State.

The Dáil will debate the amendment starting on Wednesday as it rushes to pass the amendment ahead of the referendum on May 31st. Once the Amendment has cleared all stages in the Dáil and Seanad a Referendum Commission will then be established.

Text of the current Constitution (PDF). Correct as of March 2010, not including the 29th Amendment approved by Referendum last October.

Norris Tantalisingly Close To Nomination, Dana still in the race.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 19:  Senator David Norri...
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With less then seven days to the close of nominations for the Irish Presidential Election. Senator David Norris has 17 nominations from Oireachtas members but he is going to find it very hard to get the final three signatures.

The 17 Oireachtas members who have nominted are as follows:

  1. Stephen Donnelly TD
  2. Catherine Murphy TD
  3. Maureen O’Sullivan TD
  4. Mick Wallace TD
  5. Joan Collins TD
  6. Joe Higgins TD
  7. Clare Daly TD
  8. John Halligan TD
  9. Richard Boyd Barrett TD
  10. Senator Katherine Zappone,
  11. Senator Mary Louise O’Donnell,
  12. Senator Mary Ann O’Brien,
  13. Senator John Crown,
  14. Senator Fiach Mac Conghail,
  15. SenatorSeán Barrett
  16. Senator Eamonn Coghlan
  17. Senator David Norris

Thomas Pringle TD and Seamus Healy TD have both confirmed that they will not be nominating Senator Norris. This leaves Shane Ross TD, Mattie McGrath TD (who had said he would nominate Dana), Micheal Lowry TD and Senator Michael Lowry. It is highly unlikely that he would manage to get signatures from three of these, but I am sure he will be trying very hard.

This leaves the Senator with the final option of getting a council nomination. Having received a nomination from Fingal County Council on Tuesday. It is expected that he would receive the support of Laois County Council and South Dublin County Council.

Dana Rosemary Scanlon is also on the hunt for a council nominations and his expected to receive the support of Roscommon, Longford and Donegal County Council.

Waterford City Council, Kilkenny Council and Carlow County Council are also due to meet before the close of nominations. Its going to be an interesting week!

Norris to get his First Council Tomorrow And other #Aras11 updates

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While a lot of attention is being focused on Senator David Norris’s attempt at getting 20 Oireachtas signatures, the Council route seems to have been neglected by the Senator.

That could change after tomorrow as Fingal County Council holds a special meeting to discuss motions for nominating a candidate in the Presidential Election.

The following have motions tabled for tomorrows Council meeting:

  • Senator Davis Norris
  • Gary Smylie
  • Richard McSweeney
  • Joseph Duffy
  • Garrett Kelly
  • Dr Pat Jones

A motion in support of Sean Gallagher was also tabled, but the council decided that any candidate who has received the backing of four councils the motion in respect of that candidate would fall.

Fingal County Council was the only council to pass a motion in support of Senator Norris during the summer and it can be expected that tomorrow they will back him. That means he only needs to find three more councils before Wednesday 28th. That is doable.

Carlow County Council is due  to meet today to discuss a motion supporting Sean Gallaghers bid for the Presidency. While Mr Gallagher has asked the council not to nominate him it is the only motion before them today.

Louth County Council today also became the 11th Council to endores Mary Davis’ nomination for Presidency. Later this afternoon, North Tipperary County Council will also vote on Ms Davis’ nomination. If passed she will have the backing of 12 councils.

Dana Rosemary Scanlon is also set to make an announcement today according to a number of media outlets. And it is being described as an “Important” one. It is known that one Independent TD is willing to support her and that is Mattie McGrath

It has also been confirmed who the four Independent TDs who nominated Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein are. TD’s Finian McGrath, Luke “Ming” Flanagan, Michael Healy-Rae and Tom Fleming all signed his nomination papers.

Norris to re-enter Race for the Aras?

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The Sunday Independent is reporting that David Norris is to re-enter the race for the Presidency. After withdrawing from the race over the summer I am surprised at his re-entry to the race.

His reasons for re-enter seem to be because of the support being shown, but his reason for withdrawal has not changed.

Those who withdrew their support for Mr Norris have not changed their mind, though there are talks that some Fianna Fail TD’s and Senators may help to facilitate his nomination, but it will still be a tough one for him to raise the monies required to run an effective nationwide campaign.

So what do you think should Norris re-enter? Or does the cause of his withdrawal and other statements attributed to him mean he should sit this one out?


Senators Defend the Seanad

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Although they made sound like turkeys voting against Christmas, two Senators have made good arguments in favour of keeping Seanad Eireann.

Yesterday speaking to the Irish Times, Independent Senator Joe O’Toole had the following to say,

Speaking this afternoon, Sen. O’Toole acknowledged the existing arrangement was “undemocratic, unfair” and “unrepresentative” and described voting arrangements for the Upper House, where it does not have a universal mandate, as “indefensible”.

However, the independent senator said the abolition of the Seanad would suit the interests of the political parties.

“No political party, whatever they are saying, is going to be enthusiastic about a second chamber where they have to listen to the voices of different groups of people whether it be from the Gaeltachts, Northern Ireland, business, farmers, unions, unemployed, voluntary groups, arts community etc,” Sen. O’Toole said.

Then in today’s Irish Independent, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer also defended the Seanad saying

“I think the Seanad has a valuable role to play. Some people have latched on to the idea that abolishing it would save the country but I personally think it would be the wrong road to take,” he said.

“The amount of money saved from closing it would be miniscule. Reforming the Seanad would be better than abolishing it.”

These are the opinions of the people in that house. Surely they know how its works and are best placed to tell us that it needs reform which has been blocked by certain Senators.

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All Irish Parties Opposed to the Seanad, but are the people?

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So Fianna Fail have done a U-turn on the Seanad according to the Irish Times, they along with Fine Gael, Labour, the Green Party and Sinn Fein no longer want an upper house in the Oireachtas.

Is this want the people of Ireland want? Do we want an unfeathered Dáil whos only check on power is the President, who’s powers at that are very limited.

While I agree with those in favour of abolition that the Seanad is ineffectual, but if any of the 12 reports on Seanad Reform had been implemented, then we may have an effective upper house.

This is Irish populism and bandwagon-ism at its highest. While the cost issue is going to be brought up, unless we have a Dáil that is better at keeping the Government in check, we need a Seanad. It is the only part of our establishment where there are independent voices, Norris, Bacik and Ross to name but three. These all come from the University seats.

To me it would be a sad day for the Irish Political system if we were to abolish the Seanad.

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Public Meeting on FairCare

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A public meeting will be held on Monday 8th of March at 8:00pm in Silversprings Morans Hotel Cork on the the new Fine Gael Health Policy “FairCare”.

Speakers on the night will include Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny TD, Fine Gael Health Spokesperson Dr. James O’Reilly TD and Fine Gael Seanad Health Spokesperson Senator Francis Fitzgerald.

Local elected representatives will also be in attendance. This is a good chance to find out more about the Fine Gael Health policy. I hope to be in attendance!

For more information on the policy see FairCare.ie

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FG Want to Abolish The Seanad

Fine Gael
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Last night the at the Fine Gael Presidential Dinner, Enda Kenny announced the following:

I believe the Seanad should be abolished and the next Fine Gael Government will put this to the people. I have come to the conclusion that a second house of the Oireachtas can no longer be justified. In abolishing Seanad Eireann, I have examined the outcome of similar decisions in countries such as Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand. Our two-house Oireachtas is an odd man out in Europe. Two-thirds of all European Parliaments are unicameral. Those that are not tend to be large or federal.

Well Mr. Kenny I think we disagree on this. In my view the upper house plays a vital role in our legislative process. It is independent (due to how it is elected) but I do think it needs reform.

Its strange in a week that Dan Sullivan points out, on Irish Election,  that if Fianna Fail manage to win the General Election, they could have a minority in the Seanad.

This stinks of populism. I think the Seanad needs root and branch reform (in fact our entire system needs that!) including being open to election by all on a PR list (based on European Election Constituencies, thats my idea anyway)

So do ye think FG is right to call for the abolition of the Seanad?

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This is a “momentous” piece of Legislation

Marriage by jcoterhals on Flickr
Image by jcoterhals on Flickr

Last night I attended the GLEN briefing on the Civil Partnership Bill, hosted by the Cork Gay Project and L.inc. It was a very interesting meeting and I certainly learned a lot! We were given a 3 booklets on the Bill and I am currently working my way through them and they are fascinating. The speakers were Eoin Collins, Director of Policy Change at Glen and Dr Fergus Ryan, head of Law at DIT.

A few things struck me last night during the talks by the speakers. One of those was what they called this bill. They called it “momentous”, “profound”, “substantive” and “the biggest change to family law”. A few other things that caught me were that we must “accept progress along the way” (that’s directed at you Marriage Activists) and that we need to focus on “whats in the Bill” (I got flashbacks to the Lisbon Campaign when that was said).

We are going to get this bill whether we like it or not. But this bill will do a lot for Gay and Lesbian Couples (or same-sex couples as they are called). The bill will confer rights and obligations that are equivalent to marriage. It will help to equal the playing field between same-sex couples and opposite sex couples, who at the moment, even if unmarried are better protected under Irish Law.

Just a quick note, remember that the Civil Partnership scheme in the Bill only applies to same-sex couples, while the presumptive cohabitation scheme will apply to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

So a quick did you know about the Bill.

Did you know you don’t need to be Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual to enter into a Civil Partnership?Under the bill at it stands the Civil Partnership must be between two people of the same sex and not related (ie: Father and son, or brothers etc)

Did you know you have to take vows under the bill? Under the bill a Civil Partnership Ceremony must take place in public in front of two witnesses and vows must be said.

Did you know Divorce (dissolution) is easier for a Civil Partner? Under the bill to get a dissolution you must be living separatelyfor two out of previous three years. To get a Divorce under marriage you need to living separately for four of the previous five years. There is also no clean break in a Gay Divorce, just like in a Straight Divorce.

There are a few distinctions without a difference between Marriage and Civil Partnerships but legally there is not a whole heap of difference.

But Tax, Social Welfare and Immigration aren’t dealt with in the Bill!

And rightly so. If Tax and Social Welfare were dealt with in this bill it would have to be certified as a money bill. This means the Seanad would have only 21 days to look at the bill and the Dáil can over rule it a lot easier. It is important that the bill is being dealt in the way that is. Provision will be made under the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill to make changes.

As for immigration, there is a bill dealing with immigration currently before the Oireachtas. This can easily amended to provide for Same-sex couples.

What is wrong with the Bill?

The bill does have a number of deficiencies. It does not deal with children adequately nor does it deal with citizenship. These can be remedied through the stages of the bill in the Oireachtas and Senators David Norris and Ivana Bacik have committed themselves to putting an amendment on Children forward.

What is right with the bill?

The bill will give more rights in the following ares:

  • Shared Home
  • Visitation Rights
  • Succession
  • Maintenance
  • Equality (introduction of Civil Status)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Right to sue for Wrongful Death
  • Pensions
  • Ethics
  • Tenancy

The bill will amend over 130 pieces of legislation. It will allow the law to play a role when people need it most, on illness, separation and death.

This bill is needed now. It would be cruel to dismiss it for something that we might get further down the line. That is the problem we don’t know when, we don’t how, and we think a referendum will be needed. Could you imagine the COIR posters if there was a referendum on Gay Marriage??

This is one of the biggest reforms of family law to be undertaken in Ireland. Hopefully this bill will start a train of reform in Irish Family Law, which is sorely needed!

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