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Children’s Ombudsman Issues Letter to Party Leaders Expressing Concern Over Suggested Abolition of Department of Children and Youth Affairs

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, has written to party leaders involved in Government formation talks for a second time to express grave concern over the potential abolition of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA).

The Ombudsman outlined his concerns in a letter on May 8th and following persistent suggestions that the Department will be subsumed into other departments he sent a second letter earlier this week. In his letters to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Deputy Micheál Martin and Deputy Eamon Ryan, the Ombudsman outlined that;

  • Abolition of the DCYA would be inconsistent with the State’s recognition of the importance of vindicating children’s rights, which is clearly illustrated by the inclusion of Article 42A in the Constitution. It would also be contrary to recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016 and regarded as a regressive measure by this UN Committee.
  • The abolition of the DCYA would result in reduced visibility of children at a time when the OCO continue to receive serious complaints from children and young people in Ireland and it is clear that a focus on children’s rights, welfare and wellbeing needs to be sustained.
  • The establishment of the DCYA in 2011 and of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs as a senior ministerial role occurred against the backdrop of reports that illustrated the State’s shameful treatment of children over many decades. Reports such as the Ferns Report, the Kilkenny Incest Case Report, the Ryan Report and the Murphy Report are in stark contrast to the vision and ambition set out by former Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, who stated in the DCYA’s first Annual Report that “growing up in Ireland means you have the best start in life available anywhere in the world”. While public policy relating to children has improved since 2011, the rights of children within that framework remain fragile and have yet to bed down. Abolition of the DCYA will work against this.
  • It does not appear that a rigorous risk assessment or child rights impact assessment had taken place to evaluate the potential impact of the loss of the Department and whether the voice of children and young people had been listened to in relation to the decision

In his letter to the three Leaders, Dr Muldoon said, “In light of these observations, and at a time when we need a new social contract that has human rights, equality and social justice at its core, I strongly encourage you to support retention of the DCYA as well as the role of Minister for Children and Youth Affairs as a senior ministerial role and member of the Cabinet. I have no doubt that abolition of the DCYA would have a damaging effect on children’s rights and welfare and I have grave concerns as to what this could mean for children, in particular those who are most vulnerable.”