Last Monday, the 15th of October, saw UCC Fianna Fáil launch Ógra Fianna Fáil’s campaign in favour of the upcoming Children’s Rights Referendum at 7pm in the Council Chambers UCC. Speakers at the event included Micheál Martin TD and leader of the Fianna Fáil party, Edel Quinn, Children’s Rights Policy Officer for the Children’s Rights Alliance and Professor Ursula Kilkelly of UCC Law Department.
The recently announced Children’s Referendum has been the centre of attention nationally and within the in UCC political societies. The Children’s Referendum was drafted as remedy to a lack of specific articles in the constitution, and if passed will give firm recognition of the rights of children. Changes proposed by the referendum include establishing each individual child’s inherent rights, allowing children of married parents in foster care to be adopted, reform of child protection services and setting new standards for child protection.
Deputy Martin spoke about the referendum explaining that it is the culmination of work done by organizations working for children’s rights. He spoke in favour of the referendum saying : “It will give a voice to Irish children and put their interest and rights at the centre of decisions taken across government, state agencies and in our courts.”
“In Ireland today there are 6,500 children in care and one third of these children (2,000) have married parents. These 2,000 children cannot, under present legislation, apply for adoption with their foster families.” He remarked that this is the first time since the Good Friday Agreement, that all political parties are campaigning for a yes vote. However, despite this he warned that it is important for people to come out and vote on the day. Even though there is very little debate about the referendum it does not mean people can leave the voting up to others.
Edel Quinn, Children’s Rights Policy Officer with the Children’s Rights Alliance, spoke of how this referendum has been a long time coming. The Children’s Rights Alliance has been campaigning for the rights of the child since its foundation in 1995. She called the referendum a “landmark achievement” in the campaign for the rights of the child. She spoke of how the Irish constitution does not have any child specific articles and the main thing missing from the constitution is an outline of the role of children. Currently, children have the same rights as adults under out constitution but after the referendum there will be a clear description of the rights of the child.
The Children’s Right Referendum will take place on Saturday the 10th of November.