The Children's Referendum: Explanation and Analysis

Aoife Nolan is Professor of International Human Rights Law in University of Nottingham. Liam Thornton is a lecturer in law and director of clinical legal education in University College Dublin. Aoife and Liam are organising Human Rights in Ireland’s contribution to the debate on Article 42A, the Children’s Amendment.

The Children’s Referendum is only 11 days away. This post is directed as those who may not have given much thought to the issues addressed in this referendum and who are looking for a primer on the changes to be introduced to the Irish Constitution. As  well as some discussion and analysis of the proposed constitutional amendment, this post will provide you with links to authoritative commentary and discussion on the Children’s Referendum here on the Human Rights in Ireland Blog.

What is a Referendum?

See Sonya Donnelly’s post here that discusses the referendum process.

What are we being asked to decide?

The wording of the proposed constitutional amendment is here. You can also find a discussion and analysis on each of the proposed article insertions into the constitution: Article 42A.1, Article 42A.2.1, Article 42A.2.2, Article 42A.3, Article 42A.4.1 and Article 42A.4.2. You can also find some comment on the Irish wording of Article 42A.

Some thoughts on the Children’s Referendum

Over the last number of weeks, Human Rights in Ireland has hosted a number of posts that have discussed the limits and potential of this proposed Article 42A. Here are these analysis pieces:

Yvonne Daly on St Patrick’s Institution and the Children’s Referendum.

Aoife Nolan providing some background context and thoughts on the Children’s Referendum.

Liam Thornton examined the Oireachtas debates leading up to putting  the amendment before the people. You can also read Liam’s opinion piece in the Irish Times on the Children’s Referendum.

Katie Mannion on behalf of Continue reading “The Children's Referendum: Explanation and Analysis”

The Children's Referendum: Explanation and Analysis

The Children's Referendum: The Children’s Referendum is Finally Upon Us

Human Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Prof Aoife Nolan, who along with Liam Thornton is organising this blog carnival on the Children’s Amendment, Article 42A.

Ireland has seen report after report, delay after delay, submission after submission, draft wording after draft wording. There has been political grandstanding, societal outrage and promises of reform in the face of appalling revelations such as historic institution-based child abuse and shortcomings in the contemporary child protection framework.

Previous amendment proposals, including those made in the Final Report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children and the Twenty-eighth Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2007, have been discussed at length on this blog (see here, here and here). The same is true of the extensive delays in the agreement of draft wording (see here).   These previous analyses will not be rehashed here other than to highlight that the proposed wording has clearly been strongly influenced both by that suggested by the Oireachtas Committee in its final report in February 2010 and the provisions of the 2007 draft legislation. One of the key questions that will be explored on this blog over the coming weeks is the extent to which the current wording builds and improves upon these earlier efforts.

Clearly, outstanding issues remain that will be discussed on the blog over the coming weeks. While Article 42A is a valuable addition in terms of the reforms proposed to adoption law and to aspects of child protection, Articles 41 and 42 remain resolutely un-child-centric and the implications of this for the balancing of child and parental/family rights should not be underestimated. The proposed amendment does not contain a general non-discrimination clause that would expressly prohibit discrimination against children on the grounds of ethnicity, community membership or disability. In addition, the growing impact of the financial and Continue reading “The Children's Referendum: The Children’s Referendum is Finally Upon Us”

The Children's Referendum: The Children’s Referendum is Finally Upon Us

The Children's Referendum: The Oireachtas Debates

The debates that took place in the Dáil and Seanad (known collectively as the Oireachtas) on the wording of the children’s constitutional amendment reflect similar debates that have been occurring over recent weeks on the wording of the amendment that will go before the people (see here). There was no direct opposition to the amendment, but there had been some (failed) attempts to expand the scope of the amendment.

In introducing the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012, the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald stated:

The Bill I have brought to the House will allow for one of the most important referendums in the history of the State….The values it [the Constitution] espouses and rights it provides are so intrinsically connected with being a citizen of this nation that we rarely question from where those rights and values come. The only time the average person really needs to pay direct attention to the Constitution is when it is discovered to be lacking or when he or she needs to rely on it to protect his or her rights. In the case of the children of the State, it is lacking.

The focus in introducing the Amendment was the protection of those most in need of protection. Minister Fitzgerald herself notes that this amendment will generally only affect a very small number of children. The Taoiseach’s comments broadly reflect the Continue reading “The Children's Referendum: The Oireachtas Debates”

The Children's Referendum: The Oireachtas Debates

Blog Carnival: The Children's Referendum

Aoife Nolan is Professor of International Human Rights Law in University of Nottingham. Liam Thornton is a lecturer in law and director of clinical legal education in University College Dublin. Aoife and Liam are organising Human Rights in Ireland’s contribution to the debate on Article 42A, the Children’s Amendment.

On November 10th 2012, a referendum will take place where people will have an opportunity to amend the Irish constitution to provide specific recognition of the constitutional rights of children in the constitution. Over the coming weeks, Human Rights in Ireland will provide expert analysis on the background to the introduction of the children’s amendment, an accessible legal analysis of each of the provisions of proposed Article 42A, and expert analysis and commentary on the children’s amendment. By offering accessible and concise information on the children’s amendment, Human Rights in Ireland seeks to contribute to, and demystify, the debate surrounding the children’s amendment. The provisional schedule for these posts are as follows:

On Wednesday, 17th October posts on the background to the children’s amendment; an explanation of what precisely a referendum is and an analysis of the Oireachtas debates (to date) on the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2012

On Tuesday 23rd October a number of experts on constitutional law, drawn from regular authors to this blog and guest posts, will explain in an accessible manner each of the provisions of the proposed amendment: Article 42A.

On Friday 26th October, Human Rights in Ireland will be hosting a number of posts that will analyse various aspects of the children’s constitutional amendment, offering expert insight and opinion on the role and value of the proposed Article 42A.

The Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2012 proposes to delete Continue reading “Blog Carnival: The Children's Referendum”

Blog Carnival: The Children's Referendum