Human Rights in Ireland is delighted to welcome this post from former regular contributer Aoife Nolan. Aoife is a Senior Lecturer at Durham Law School and an expert in the field of children’s rights.
Yesterday, the Minister for Children told the Dail that she will seek approval from the Government to hold a referendum on the rights of children next year. In a response to a question posed by Deputy Michael Moynihan, Frances Fitzgerald TD stated that: ‘The timing of the referendum will have regard to the need to allow an appropriate period of time for the proposal to be fully communicated to the public … Notwithstanding that I am committed to advancing the referendum at as early a date in 2012 as possible’.
In terms of wording, the Minister stated that, ‘work on the wording of the referendum is ongoing, focusing on ensuring that the proposed Referendum reflects the deliberations and conclusions of the Joint Committee and the commitment in the Programme for Government. It is my intention to seek approval from Government for the proposed wording once finalised, with a view to holding the referendum next year. I anticipate that a wording will be developed shortly.’
The Irish Times reports that the Minister told the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children that it would be stand-alone ‘to ensure people clearly understand what it is about’.
Ireland has thus been promised a referendum on the constitutional protection of the rights of the child this year. As reported by Journal.ie , this development has understandably been welcomed by children’s rights advocates. Although this is undoubtedly good news, grounds for trepidation remain. Notably, the content of the amendment remains unclear. This is perhaps unsurprising given the delay and controversy that has surrounded the long-standing proposal for such a referendum so far (for discussions, see here). It remains to be seen whether the amendment wording that is finally proposed offers effective and comprehensive protection to children’s rights. Given the shortcomings of previous proposals (for discussions, see here, here and here), it cannot be assumed that this will be the case.