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Constitution Committee’s recommendations a retrograde step

The failure of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution to recommend that express rights for children be included in the Constitution is a retrograde step in strengthening and protecting children’s rights. This means that children will not be recognised as individual rights holders, according to Ireland’s first Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan today (Tuesday).

“The concept of enshrining children’s rights in the Constitution is not a new one. As far back as 1993, the Kilkenny Investigation Committee made this recommendation in the Kilkenny Incest Report. Ten years ago, the Constitution Review Group recommended that an express guarantee of certain rights of the child and an express requirement that in all actions concerning children the best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration should be added into the Constitution. Instead of recommending that the Constitution be amended to include express rights for children, now in 2006 the Committee has settled for a proposal that falls far short of this. Not only is it a disappointing move, it is also a retrograde step.

“It is acknowledged that most children in Ireland grow up in warm, caring environments. Sadly, this is not the case for all children. Some children live in vulnerable situations and it is these children, in particular, who need constitutional protection. It is unfortunate that, in its consideration of the constitutional position of children, the Committee concentrated on the rights of adults rather than those of children.

“At present in the Constitution children and young people are not recognised as holding rights independent of their family even though international and European human rights instruments guarantee human rights for everyone including children. Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. In 1998, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the Government to accelerate the implementation of the Constitutional Review Group’s recommendations of 1996. It also called on the Government to take steps to ensure that the UN Convention is fully incorporated into domestic law. The Government has not taken either of these steps.

“I originally called for express rights for children to be included in the Constitution in a written submission to the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution January 2005, and again in an oral hearing with the Committee in April 2005. Many other groups made similar calls. It is disappointing that the Committee failed to recommend that children be recognized as individual rights holders in the Constitution. We, as a society, will look back on this decision as a missed opportunity; an opportunity that could have made a real difference to the real lives of vulnerable children.”