Local TD Mr. Alan Kelly, Minister for Public Transport and Commuter Affairs, and Fine Gael T.D., Mr. Noel Coonan, have welcomed the Yes vote for Children’s rights.
Mr. Kelly said: “I would like to thank all of those who came out and exercised their right to vote so that, for the first time, our Constitution will contain an explicit statement of children’s rights. November 10 was a good day for children in Ireland, guaranteeing the first steps in protecting our young people, and the Government is committed to bringing in legislation to back it up.
“However, I am disappointed with the low turnout which may have been as a result of the perceived voter expectation of the referendum passing easily.”
Mr. Coonan said the positive result of the Children’s Referendum would ensure that children were treated differently in the future.
“I am delighted that the Children’s Referendum has been passed. Securing a Yes vote will mean that, at long last, we can enshrine children’s rights in our Constitution, ensuring we have a more child-centred system in the future.
“While there will be the inevitable political analysis and discussion about turnout in the coming days, what is important, and what will stand the test of time, is that we have finally made this hugely important change to our Constitution. Almost 20 years after it was first called for, we are now giving children individual rights,” said Deputy Coonan.
“Constitutional change can have a profound effect; this new children’s article will act as a signpost for judges, lawyers and social workers when they are dealing with cases involving children. Courts will now have to listen to children when making crucial decisions about their future, and the child’s best interests must now be central.
“By passing this Referendum, we are transforming the future of many children in long term foster care. No longer can children be treated differently in adoption, based on the marital status of their parents. Now, children who have been abandoned by their parents will have the chance to be adopted by the foster parents they consider to be their family.
“I want to acknowledge the role played by the various children’s groups and individuals who were not politically involved and who supported this amendment,” continued Noel.
“This new children’s article in the Constitution can facilitate a cultural shift in how we treat young people in this country, particularly our most vulnerable children. But it is important to add that the passing of this Referendum – while crucial – is just one step. The Government will push ahead with publishing legislation to bring effect to the changes made possible by the Children’s Referendum.
“I would like to pay tribute to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, who has worked tirelessly on this issue since she took up her ministry. Building a broad consensus of support with all of the key children’s advocacy groups was an essential step in making this Referendum a success. Now, the Minister will continue to reform our child protection services. This includes the establishment of the new Child and Family Support Agency, which will be up and running in the New Year,” concluded Deputy Coonan.