01 November 2012

Standing Room Only As Local Residents Crowd to Find Out More About the Children’s Referendum

Clondalkin residents reminded that decisions are made by those who turn up
 Almost two hundred and fifty local residents attended a packed event in Liffey Valley’s Clarion Hotel last week to find out more information about the upcoming Children’s Referendum. There was standing room only at the Information Evening, hosted by Fine Gael Ministers Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar and addressed by RTE’s Olivia O’Leary and child law expert Dr. Geoffrey Shannon.

Residents from right across Lucan, Clondalkin and Newcastle attended the event and participated in the robust debate. Local organisations including The Clondalkin Carers, local fosterparents and parents were among those who engaged in the questions and answers session of the event. Olivia O’Leary who addressed the crowd stated that this Referendum “is a necessary foundation stone. Children are most precious, let’s treat them like that and let’s put them in our Constitution.”

Dr. Geoffrey Shannon S.C. stated that behind every child is a number. He spoke of a specific case where the marital status of a fosterchild’s parents had a direct effect on that child’s future with their fosterfamily. He spoke of what he described as “incredibly high legal barriers” for the adoption eligibility of fosterchildren in cases where adoption is in their best interest and called on people to take children out of the twilight zone and give them a voice. He allyed concerns from some members of the audience about the rights of the family assuring them that Article 41 will remain unchanged if the Amendment is accepted.

Local T.D. Frances Fitzgerald, who is the Minister proposing the Referendum, described it as critical in providing visibility in our Constitution for children. She stated, “As with all constitutional change, there are many questions, arguments and counter-arguments taking place. It can range from concerns regarding the wording to misinterpretation of its intent. But at its heart, the change we are recommending is not to be decided by the politicians, lawyers or the sensationalists. It is to be decided by the people – by all our citizens; You.
She said, “The Children's Referendum is about protecting children, supporting families and removing inequalities in adoption. It says: we believe that children, if they are mature enough, should be able to express their views in legal proceedings that affect them. For instance if a judge is making a decision involving a mature 16-year-old that judge will be required to ask what the 16-year-old’s views are and consider their views as one of the elements of their decision. “It says: we believe all children are equal. At present the laws relating to adoption are different depending on whether the child to be adopted is born “out of wedlock” or not. All children should be equal. It says: we believe that when a child is being starved, or beaten, or burned or physically or sexually abused social workers should be able to intervene to stop that to protect the safety and welfare of the child. It says: in essence, it explicitly says that children in Ireland have rights. That the State will recognise those rights. And that we will do everything we can to protect those rights.” Minister Leo Varadkar who is the Fine Gael Director of Elections for their ‘Yes’ campaign reminded people of the importance of voting on Saturday November 10th. He stated that decisions are made by those who turn up.