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Proposed Children’s Rights Referendum Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Since the wording for the Children’s Rights Referendum was announced a few weeks ago, I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so uncomfortable with it. People I like and admire – like Senator Jillian van Turnhout and Tanya Ward –  are fully behind the proposed wording, arguing that our children are not sufficiently protected by the Irish Constitution. I agree with them on that point, but I am gravely concerned that the proposed constitutional amendment doesn’t go far enough.

And I am concerned that we have a history of ‘settling’ in this country. The belief that ‘half a loaf is better than none’ seems to permeate our collective consciousness.   Nearly a hundred years ago, a delegation left these shores for Westminster to negotiate a treaty with England. Accepting something that was less than what the majority wanted led to civil war and decades of sectarian violence on this island.

More recently, we had a Civil Partnership Bill, which recognised the validity of relationships where people are committed to each other, but not married. It was a sop to same-sex couples, recognising their unions and allowing them certain rights under the law – particularly in regard to taxation.  For many couples, however, it just doesn’t go far enough. There are several areas where the disparity between marriage and civil partnership – and many of them are detailed here.

But civil partnership was heralded as great progress when it was signed into legislation nearly two years ago. In spite of the fact that it doesn’t offer parity with marriage – it cannot reasonably be called ‘gay marriage’ because it’s not. But it’s half a loaf. So we’ve grabbed at it gratefully and thought it was a toe in the door. Hopeful, perhaps, that later it could be amended to

It’s a slowly, slowly catchee monkey approach that so characterises an Irish approach to change. Instead of standing up and demanding the full loaf that we’re entitled to, we gratefully accept a morsel, a slice or a half loaf and tell ourselves ‘it’s a start’.

When it comes to our children, this approach sickens me. If you take a look at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child  and compare it with the wording for the proposed amendment to the constitution , you can see that the proposed amendment does not go far enough – it does not discharge its duty to protect and care for the children of this nation in line with the UNCRC. You might think about that before you vote.

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2 thoughts on “Proposed Children’s Rights Referendum Doesn’t Go Far Enough

  1. theraggedwagon says:

    The referendum doesn’t even get off the ground, never mind far enough! I’m surprised that so many I regard a progressive fell in with the Government’s view and offered support for the wording – particularly the new members of the Dail who are considered left-wing. We’ve never had a left-wing voice on abused children in Ireland; it might come as a surprise to some people that the Irish Labour Party never managed to close even ONE Industrial School … or even a Magdalene Laundry; Claire Byrne and RBB’s contribution during the Oireachtas stages of the Statutory Fund were a revelation and I thought that they would rigorously examine the proposed wording of the referendum but I was disappointed that they didn’t.

  2. theraggedwagon says:

    170,000 children were incarcerated in the torture institutions. Close to 40% of these children were hauled before the courts by the ISPCC. During the era of the Institutions at least one official of the ISPCC received a bounty from the Church/Religious Order for each child he managed to snatch and haul before the District Court. Needless to say these children were taken from poor and low-income families. It is likely that bounties were paid in most of the cases the ISPCC was involved in. The ISPCC supports a ‘YES’ vote; and the ISPCC has not contributed even one cent to the abuse bill

    Children were heard. During a sodality in one Institution the children revealed they were being abused. The sodality was shut down. In other Institutions if a child revealed they were being abused they were further beaten.

    The Ryan Report identified 800 abusers, most of them from 18 Religious Orders. No prosecutions have followed this Report. None of the Religious Orders have had their assets seized by CAB! Indeed the Minister for Education is putting out the begging bowl to these odious organisations for them to pay their fair share of the abuse bill. So far they have told him to F**l Off. These Religious Orders are protected by an Indemnity Deal – the Indemnity Deal was agreed between the State and the Religious Orders over the objections of child abuse survivors. Abuse victims were not heard!

    The Murphy Report revealed a long running criminal conspiracy, in the Dublin archdiocese, that facilitated the sexual torture of children, No prosecutions of bishops to date and no seizure of assets.

    The head of the Catholic Church here, cardinal Sean Brady, was involved in swearing oaths of secrecy on children who had been sexually tortured by Fr. Brendan Smyth. As a result Smyth continued to abuse children for almost another two decades. Brady has not been charged with any crime.

    During the era of the institutions only one judge resisted sending children to be tortured – only ONE judge! The wording of the present referendum will be interpreted differently by different judges. The recommendation ( http://bit.ly/VLde3j )following the Kilkenny Incest Case was that:

    “.. the Constitution [682] should contain a specific and overt declaration of the rights of children … ”

    The present wording is not overt or explicit! Explicit wording that removed the parental rights of parents who abuse their children would prevent judges from re-interpreting the wishes of the people. There will be NO unintended consequences.

    The present wording is also eerily similar to the section that allowed 170,000 children to be consigned to the State-funded Catholic-managed institutions.

    The present wording doesn’t contain a specific and overt declaration of the rights of children and is open to different interpretations by different judges.

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