Liam Thornton is a lecturer in law and director of clinical legal education in University College Dublin
The last 24 hours, if nothing else, has focused the attention of the children’s referendum campaign, not (perish the thought) on the rights of children, but on how the government spent public monies to promote a a Yes vote. It is important to emphasise that the Supreme Court were not in any way expressing an opinion, good, bad or indifferent, to the proposal before the people tomorrow. Rather (and correctly in my view) sought to ensure that public money should not be spent by the government advocating one side in a referendum that would result in a change to the Irish constitution.A relatively lackluster campaign in all, assisted by a lackluster amendment, but one that nevertheless, in my view should be accepted. The amendment should be accepted because:
- It will provide further constitutional recognition of the rights of the child, in harmony with the essential and important role of the family in the life of the child already recognised under the Irish Constitution;
- In exceptional cases will allow the State to intervene in a proportionate manner where the safety or welfare of a child is prejudically affected;
- Will allow the State to equalise adoption laws and allow any child to be placed for adoption;
- In proceedings relating to adoption, custody, access to a child, the best interests of the child will be the paramount consideration AND a child capable of forming a view on matters relating to adoption, custody and access, will have their views heard (not necessarily followed) in these proceedings.
A number of groups emerged throughout the campaign arguing for a No vote, Two Rights Now demanding that the government respect and protect certain rights already in the constitution before adopting another amendment. The Alliance of Parents Against the State argue that this amendment will provide unwarranted powers for the State to intervene in the family. Other arguments that have emerged relate to forced vaccination of children (a particular obsession amongst some elements of the No campaign), and being ‘forced’ to pass this referendum due to an interfering EU and UN (Quick, run kids, Ban Ki Moon and Manuel Barroso are coming to get you!) There were also some worrying trends that emerged in the debate, in particular on the Vincent Browne and RTE Frontline debates.: A hostile attitude to any sort of state intervention whatsoever in the family. With arguments akin to something that has come to dominate US politics, some of those on the No side basically inferring that ‘child snatch panels’ would be established. The current legal regime for removing children from families will remain in place (see generally, Child Care Act 1991 (as amended)). The 1991 Act quite Continue reading “The Children's Referendum November 10 2012”