The Programme for Government 2011 commits to holding a referendum to strengthen the protection of children in the Constitution. The Programme for Government states that the wording of the referendum will be along the lines of that proposed by the All Party Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children (JCCAC).
Since taking office, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has worked closely with the Attorney General to develop a wording that would best reflect the wording of the JCCAC in the Irish constitution.
The principles of the proposed constitutional change include:
- A general recognition and affirmation of the rights of children;
- Provision for the State in certain cases to intervene to protect a child where its parents fail to do so;
- Provision to ensure that the law treats all children equally in law, whether or not their parents are married, including in relation to the law on adoption.
- Provision to enable a requirement that the best interests of children be regarded as the paramount consideration in the resolution of proceedings affecting children.
- Provision to enable a requirement that the views of children be ascertained and given due weight according to their age and maturity in proceedings affecting children.
The Minister has consistently engaged with non-governmental organisations and other interested parties around the country in order to listen to the perspectives of a wide group of stakeholders in preparation for the referendum.
The referendum is expected to be held in 2012. The Government is committed to affording the time, resources and commitment required to ensure that the electorate are fully informed about the proposals contained in the constitutional amendment on children.
“The Government is determined to ensure that the legislative and policy framework for children’s services is right. The Taoiseach and I have consistently reiterated the focus on the children’s agenda in the Programme for Government. We are committed to holding a Referendum which will strengthen children’s rights in the Constitution. This is the bedrock of the Government’s commitment to raising the needs of children up the political agenda. It is a critical milestone for 2012. We will be asking the Irish people to vote on an amendments to the constitution to strengthen the protection and the place of children in Ireland.
Further information is available from the Departmental website of the Minister for Children and Youth Affiars Frances Fitzgerald here
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