Publication of Government’s wording on Constitutional Amendment on Children
The Taoiseach has said he is committed to a constitutional referendum on children though it remains to be decided whether that referendum will take place before the election or in the Autumn. Mr. Ahern was speaking at a press conference to mark the publication of the Government’s wording for the constitutional amendment. A Bill containing the amendment was also published. The Taoiseach said the wording was an excellent one which provided a framework within which our law will continue to develop so that it enshrines the highest possible standards of protection for children. “My objective is that we have provisions which are as strong and effective as those possessed by any country in the world not just now, but well into the future.” He called on the opposition parties to engage in a process of reflection and consideration about the wording. ”They have been aware over the past number of weeks of the substance, though not the wording of the proposed amendment, so I am hopeful that they may be in a position to conclude their consideration within a short time-frame. The Tanaiste, Micheal McDowell also attended the launch of the Bill. The Government’s wording will provide:
1. An acknowledgement by the State of the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children.
2. Restatement of the existing protection of children and parents contained in the current Article 42.5 and the extension of this provision to all children.
3. Legal authority for the adoption of children who have been in care for a substantial period of time if it is in the best interests of those children.
4. Ensuring that all children are eligible for voluntary adoption.
5. Legal authority to secure the best interests of children in any court proceedings relating to adoption, guardianship, custody or access.
6. Legal authority for the collection and exchange of information relating to the risk or actual occurrence of child sexual abuse.
7. Legal authority to create offences of absolute or strict liability in respect of offences against or in connection with children.
The Minister for Children Brian Lenihan who conducted the consultations to achieve a consensus on a wording stressed that the amendment in no way undermined the constitutional position of the family based on marriage as the fundamental unit of society. “This Government is in total agreement with Mr Justice Hardiman who, in a recent much publicised Supreme Court decision, said the welfare of the child is best secured in his or her natural family. Nothing in this amendment seeks to change that position.” Mr Lenihan said the people’s Constitution must protect the people’s children and it was to the Taoiseach’s great credit that he had progressed the issue of constitutional reform in relation to children to the point of no return, “For me, this amendment is the high point of the Government’s reforming programme of action in relation to children which has focussed minds on children’s issues in a manner unprecedented in this country which will be of lasting benefit to all our children into the future.” The Minister stressed that the power to change our Constitution rests with the people alone. “Time and again the people of Ireland have demonstrated their strong attachment to our Constitution. We should not underestimate the huge onus that rests on all of us who seek to strengthen the position of the child in the Constitution. The burden of persuasion in any referendum is a heavy one. It is all the greater when the proposal relates to the delicate and intimate relationship that exists between child, parent, family and the state.” He concluded that he believed the wording the government had produced would command the support of the people. “This is an enormous opportunity to make a difference for children. I firmly believe that the time has come to move beyond oratory to ensure that the fundamental law of our land, the Constitution, properly reflects our commitment to value and protect childhood,” concluded the Minister.
Read Minister Lenihan’s Speech
Notes to Editors
AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION
WHEREAS by virtue of Article 46 of the Constitution, any provision of the Constitution may be amended in the manner provided by that Article:
AND WHEREAS it is proposed to amend the Constitution:
BE IT THEREFORE ENACTED BY THE OIREACHTAS AS FOLLOWS:
Amendment of the Constitution. 1.The Constitution is hereby amended as follows:
(a) section 5 of the Irish text of Article 42 shall be repealed,
(b) section 5 of the English text of Article 42 shall be repealed,
(c) the Article the text of which is set out in Part 1 of the Schedule shall be inserted after Article 42 of the Irish text, (d) the Article the text of which is set out in Part 2 of the Schedule shall be inserted after Article 42 of the English text. Citation. 2.—(1) The amendment of the Constitution effected by this Act shall be called the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
(2)This Act may be cited as the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act 2007.
PART 2 CHILDREN
1. The State acknowledges and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children.
• In exceptional cases, where the parents of any child for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards such child, the State as guardian of the common good, by appropriate means shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.
• Provision may be made by law for the adoption of a child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child, and where the best interests of the child so require.
3. Provision may be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.
4. Provision may be made by law that in proceedings before any court concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the court shall endeavour to secure the best interests of the child.
• Provision may be made by law for the collection and exchange of information relating to the endangerment, sexual exploitation or sexual abuse, or risk thereof, of children, or other persons of such a class or classes as may be prescribed by law.
• No provision in this Constitution invalidates any law providing for offences of absolute or strict liability committed against or in connection with a child under 18 years of age.
•The provisions of this section of this Article do not, in any way, limit the powers of the Oireachtas to provide by law for other offences of absolute or strict liability.