Press Release

All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution – Press Release – Family Rights

The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution is carrying out a review of the Articles in the Constitution dealing with the family.  This follows upon a long-standing request from the Department of Health and Children to consider a constitutional amendment to underpin the individual rights of children.

“The most coherent and effective way to do a study of children’s rights is in the context of an examination of the place of the family in the Constitution” says Denis O’Donovan, TD, chairman of the committee.

Article 41 of the Constitution contains the main provisions relating to the family.  Article 42, which deals with education, is closely linked and has been construed by the courts as containing in Article 42.2 a guarantee of children’s rights which go beyond education.  In addition, Article 40.3 is relevant because the rights of a child born of unmarried parents have been held to be personal rights protected by it.

“The committee is studying the case law that has developed under these Articles”, says Mr O’Donovan.  “We are also studying the Report of the Constitution Review Group (1996) and the report of the Commission on the Family (1998)”.

The committee also has available to it submissions on the family from interest groups and individuals to the Constitution Review Group, and to the committee itself in response to the Report of the Constitution Review Group.

It proposes to hold meetings with the interest groups who have made submissions and with the interested public bodies.

“We are also interested in having the views of any other individuals or interest groups who may wish to convey their ideas or concerns”, says Mr O’Donovan.

The current work of reviewing the Constitution began with the report published by the Constitution Review Group, a body of experts mainly lawyers, under the chairmanship of Dr TK Whitaker in 1996.  Amendments to the Constitution must come in the form of proposals passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The key present phase of the review, therefore, is being undertaken by an All-Party Oireachtas committee.  The committee formulates its recommendations in the light of the Report of the Constitution Review Group, public reactions to it, submissions from individuals and groups, and the knowledge and experience of its members.

As a former Fianna Fáil senator, Denis O’ Donovan served on the previous All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution (1997-2002).  He is chairman of the Oireachtas Committee dealing with the impeachment process in regard to Judge Brian Curtin. He is also a member of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights as well as the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.  He is married with three sons and one daughter, and lives in Bantry in Co. Cork.

The vice-chairman of the committee is Fine Gael TD Pádraic McCormack who has represented Galway West since 1989 and is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the Environment Committee.  The other members of the committee are: Barry Andrews TD (FF, Dún Laoghaire), James Breen TD (IND, Clare), Ciarán Cuffe TD (GP, Dún Laoghaire), Senator Brendan Daly (FF), Senator John Dardis (PD), Jimmy Devins TD (FF, Sligo-Leitrim), Arthur Morgan TD (SF, Louth), Dan Neville TD (FG, Limerick West), Senator Ann Ormonde (FF), Jan O’Sullivan TD (LAB, Limerick East), Peter Power TD (FF, Limerick East), Senator Joanna Tuffy (LAB).