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Constitutional change needed to protect children’s rights-Ombudsman for Children

The Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan today (Tuesday) outlined to the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution why children and young people’s rights should be expressly stated in the Constitution.

Emily told the Committee:

“The current position of children in the Irish Constitution is unacceptable. At present, children are not recognised as holding rights independent of their family or the State. This recommendation is not about taking rights away from parents. Most children in Ireland live in warm, caring environments with loving parents, but others do not. It is vital that we, as a society, recognise these vulnerable children and take steps to protect their welfare. Articles 41 and 42 of the Irish Constitution need to be amended in order to ensure that children’s rights are put on an equal footing to adults rights”

Ireland has already ratified two human rights instruments that have bearing on children’s rights: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. However, the duality of Irish law means that international instruments are introduced at sub-constitutional level.

Emily added:

“Legislation can be introduced but unless the Constitution in changed parents will always have imprescriptible and inalienable rights which render children’s rights subordinate. So, for example, children in long-term foster care situations, who wish to be adopted by their foster family, cannot be if their biological parents refuse to give consent. This is a cruel situation for children who only want to be part of a loving family”

The Ombudsman for Children has a statutory mandate to promote children’s rights. In January Emily originally called for constitutional change to ensure the right of children to have their welfare protected. Her presentation today to the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, in which she reiterated her call for express rights for children be inserted into the Irish Constitution, is based on January’s written submission.