Senator van Turnhout supports the 31st Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012

Senator van Turnhout supports the 31st Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012

“It is fitting that the Referendum will take place on Saturday 10 November, on the birthday of Pádraig Pearse who, when reading out the Proclamation in 1916, urged us to cherish ‘all the children of the nation equally’.”

Press Statement, 2nd October 2012


Today in the Seanad, Independent Senator Jillian van Turnhout put her support for the 31st Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012 on the record. The Senator has spent many years as a campaigner for Children’s Rights.

Senator van Turnhout applauded the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, as well as those who have worked for years to bring this urgent issue to the fore in Irish politics. She reminded the House that children’s rights remain pressing today, in an Ireland which has witnessed horrific abuse of children at the hands of institutions:

“I recently expressed my profound sadness and a sense of the responsibility and shame I bear as a member of a society that has systematically failed to protect our most vulnerable children.”

Senator van Turnhout welcomed the balanced wording of the proposed amendment, but noted that more remains to be done, particularly in regard to the child’s right to identity.

The Senator is convinced that a constitutional amendment on children’s rights is absolutely necessary:

“It is needed to overcome legal roadblocks that are preventing us from fully protecting children and supporting families; that is hampering us from making decisions that are child-centred; and is preventing us from reforming our adoption laws.”

The Senator called on politicians and on the media to work hard to inform voters of the issues at stake before the referendum: “In years gone by children were seen but not heard. I hope we won’t have a campaign where we see but don’t hear – you see the posters on the lamp-posts but the airwaves are practically silent, and decisions are made in a void.”

The Senator welcomed the fact that the best interests of the child will now be considered paramount, arguing that this will improve the situation of children in state care. These children will now be viewed as autonomous beings, the same as any other citizen – “not greater or lesser, but equal”. The amendment could also begin a process which will help remove some of the 2,000 children in foster care in Ireland today from the legal limbo which exists under current legislation.

Praising the amendment’s recognition of “the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children”, Senator van Turnhout stressed that it marks a starting point rather than a conclusion:

“It will be a duty on this House to pass the legislation promised in this amendment – we must be aware that the clock will start ticking if the people of Ireland say Yes on 10 November.”


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