Thursday, November 8, 2012

Children's Referendum

This Saturday the Irish people are invited to vote on whether to add the following new article 42a to the Irish Constitution.

Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution
1. The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.
1° In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.
2° Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any 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 shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.
1° Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings -
i brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or
ii concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.
2° Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

This will put it in the section Fundamental Rights. This new article will also replace the last section of article 42.

Article 42 
1. The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.  
2. Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State.  
1° The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State.  
2° The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social.  
4. The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide other educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.  
5. In exceptional cases, where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children, 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.  

You can read the constitution here to see where it fits in if you like. Warning, reading the constitution of Ireland may induce moments of 'it says WHAT?'.

Is the new article perfect? Absolutely not. Does it do everything an article on children's rights should? Nope. Is it better than nothing? In my opinion, yes.

When I sat down tonight to go through all the links I'd picked up various places on this I was leaning slightly to the No side. Probably primarily because the only thing I'd actually read on the subject before now was this argument from someone I know and admire, against. But after an evening of reading and watching, I have now decided to vote Yes. If you still haven't made up your mind, here's a few more of my sources, in no particular order:

A refutation of an argument to vote no. I haven't actually seen the argument it's refuting anywhere, but this is worth reading anyway.

There are a bunch of videos here arguing for a yes vote from the Children's Right's Alliance. They use the same music on all of them, which gets really annoying. This is the only one I found any way convincing.

A not particularly convincing (to me anyway) argument for no.

Some good arguments against, from a 'how do we actually interpret this' point of view. Including the insightful: "They should have been more brief and less prescriptive.  That's what constitutions are about."

To quote another person I know and admire 'I think the amendment does marginally more good than no'.


  1. I was uninformed, leaning yes due to lack of decent no argument, then a friend of mine who's a social worker suggested people vote yes and offered to discuss reasons. Pretty much convinced me.

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  3. The only reason I have right now to vote no is this: it is an inelegant and imperfect solution. This article may be used as an argument against, or may by its very existence obscure the necessity of a more perfect solution.

    (deleted an reposted for grammar)