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State needs to support families in upcoming children’s rights referendum

The State needs to support families, consider the principles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and set out a clear, unambiguous position of children’s rights in the Constitution, the Ombudsman for Children said in her advice to Government, published today (Friday), on the proposed referendum on children’s rights.

Emily Logan met with Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan, in early December 2006, to discuss the proposed constitutional change and in that meeting undertook to submit written advice on the matter in accordance with Section 7(4) of the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002.

Emily Logan said:

“There is a lack of clarity about the status of children’s rights in our Constitution. Changes need to be made to Articles 40, 41 and 42 of the Constitution. Last November, the Taoiseach expressed a view that children’s rights should have a central place in our Constitution.

“In my submission, I have adhered to my statutory role to provide advice on any matter concerning the rights and welfare of children including the probable effect of legal change as set out in Section 7(3) of the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002. I have confined myself to this role and do not propose any wording. However, I believe that we must be guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as regards the approach to such a change and the wording to be proposed. I consider the relevant principles in this context to be ‘best interests’; ‘non-discrimination’; ‘family rights’; and ‘participation’.

“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is consistent with the Irish Constitution in terms of its presumption that the family environment is the optimal environment for a child’s growth and wellbeing. The State needs to recognise the many changes and challenges facing families today which requires parents to be given better State support, considering that such support is essential for children, parents and society as a whole.

“The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers recommendation to member states on policy to support positive parenting, adopted on 13 December 2006 called on Ireland to: ‘acknowledge the essential nature of families and of the parental role and create the necessary conditions for positive parenting in the best interests of the child’. It also called on the State to ‘take all appropriate legislative, administrative, financial and other measures’ to achieve this.

“There is evidence in Ireland that children view the family as the most important contributor to their well-being. The experience of my Office through our direct contact with children and young people and our complaints function supports this view. Parents and children who complain directly to the Office seek help for their family. This has consistently been expressed as supplementing not supplanting their family responsibilities.

“Irish people demonstrated their concern for children’s well-being last summer following the Supreme Court judgement on statutory rape. Hopefully, this year they will have an opportunity to effect legislative change to strengthen children’s rights”.


Notes to Editors:

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is the independent, statutory organisation with responsibility for promoting children’s rights in Ireland. The Ombudsman for Children first called for children’s rights to be included in the Constitution in a submission to the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in January 2005.

For more information contact Nikki Gallagher 01-8656803 or 086-8163246