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|Title: ||Report to the Oireachtas on the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012|
|Publisher: ||Ombudsman for Children Office (OCO)|
|Issue Date: ||Oct-2012 |
The Government published the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill, 2012 on the 19th of September 2012. The Bill sets out a proposed amendment to the Constitution, repealing section 5 of the existing Article 42 and inserting a new Article 42A entitled “Children”.
Section 7 of the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002 provides that the Ombudsman for Children may advise Ministers of the Government on any matter relating to the rights and welfare of children, including the probable effect of proposals for legislation on children. Section 13 also provides that the Ombudsman for Children may submit reports to the Oireachtas on the performance of her functions as she sees fit.
In accordance with these statutory functions, the Ombudsman for Children has on four separate occasions provided advice to the Government and to the Oireachtas regarding proposals to amend the Constitution to give greater protection to the rights of the child.1 The comments below on the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill, 2012 have also been prepared in accordance with section 13 of the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002.
In addition to these previous submissions, the Ombudsman for Children has engaged directly with successive Ministers for Children and Youth Affairs since November 2006 on the elements such an amendment to the Constitution should contain, as well as raising the matter with a number of Oireachtas committees.2
The wording contained in the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill, 2012 represents a significant and positive step forward for children and families in Ireland. The Ombudsman for Children has been calling for an amendment to the Constitution to give greater protection to the rights of the child since its first year of operation. The central message of each submission made to the Government and to the Oireachtas on this issue has been the same: Ireland should enshrine key children’s rights principles in the Constitution in order to underpin a fundamental shift in our law, policy and practice regarding children. In particular, the Ombudsman for Children called for the inclusion of specific principles set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in any such amendment to the Constitution.3
The constitutionalisation of principles derived from the UNCRC has also been recommended by international human rights monitoring mechanisms such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.4
Previous submissions made by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office have set out in detail this Office’s analysis of how these principles could be incorporated into our Constitution and the positive effect this would have on the realisation of children’s rights. The comments below have not reproduced that analysis in detail; they have focused instead on the extent to which the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill, 2012 reflects the recommendations made by the Ombudsman for Children in relation to constitutional change.
The proposed amendment will undoubtedly advance children’s rights in Ireland. Although it does not incorporate the principles of the UNCRC to the extent recommended by this Office, it will provide a strong foundation for future incorporation of those principles in our law and policy. Achieving this potential will, however, require a concerted effort on the part of the Government and the Oireachtas to abide by Ireland’s international obligations in this regard
The task of achieving consensus on a wording to amend the Constitution in this area is a complex one and the Ombudsman for Children’s Office welcomes the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs’ commitment to consulting stakeholders in relation to it. It was clear from the Ombudsman for Children’s direct engagement with the Taoiseach in April 2012 in relation to the wording of the amendment and her subsequent meetings with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Tánaiste that the final shape of the amendment would be determined by a wide range of factors.
This is a new beginning and not the conclusion of advancing children’s rights in Ireland; compliance with the UNCRC will remain an unfinished project. Bearing this in mind, the Government should consider what further actions need to be taken to ensure that the UNCRC permeates legislation and decision-making by public bodies regarding children. The momentum that has gathered behind the current proposal to amend the Constitution should be maintained beyond the referendum on the 10th of November. 1.11.
It is well known that a referendum on the rights of the child has been called for by many, and that it is long-awaited. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office hopes that the best will be made of this very rare opportunity.|
|Appears in Collections: ||Office of the Ombudsman for Children|
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