On Saturday November 10 you will be asked to vote Yes to the Children’s referendum. A Yes vote will mean that our Constitution will be amended to include an explicit guarantee in relation to children’s rights.
The Labour Party has had a long held commitment to children’s rights and to amending our Constitution to explicitly include the rights of children. Indeed, securing this referendum was a fundamental part of Labour’s negotiations for the Programme for Government. We are now delivering on that promise.
This referendum is our opportunity to state clearly that we value children and childhood. A Yes vote will state clearly we believe children have a right to be cared for and protected. It will state clearly that young people should not be silenced or side-lined.
This referendum is about children’s rights. It is about the right for children to be protected, when they can no longer rely on the natural protection of their family. It is about the right of children to have their best interests at the centre of major decisions about their safety and welfare, and to have their views heard. It is about the right to equal treatment, whatever their background, or the marital status of their parents.
Some of the darkest moments in our history as a nation are a direct consequence of children’s interests, and children’s right to be cared for and protected, being ignored.
We have all been shocked at the various reports published in recent years on the abuse suffered by our most vulnerable citizens. We have learned how terrible suffering in childhood can carry on into adult life in the most painful of ways. We have seen how a childhood can last a lifetime.
This referendum is about ensuring this can never happen again. It is about protecting our children, ensuring they are cared for and valued. It is about time we expressly recognise children in their own right within the Constitution. This referendum will ensure children are recognised in their own right. Importantly, it provides for a fair balance between the rights of the child and the role of the State.
For most children, the best place to be is with their families, and this fact remains unchanged by the proposed amendment. However, for a small number of children, this is not always the case.
The wording of the referendum includes a range of changes which include considering the view of the child in matters of family law. It will ensure equal treatment of all children when it comes to adoption, regardless of whether their parents are married or not.
For too long, children have been seen but not heard and this proposed change would ensure that children have a say in matters directly concerning them. The protection of children is an issue that is of concern to all of us.
This is an extremely important referendum. Childhood only happens once, and on November 10 we have an opportunity to decide that every childhood is precious, and that every child is deserving of our protection and care.
In short, the Children’s Referendum will change the Constitution so it:
- Protects children
- Supports families
- Treats all children equally
Vote Yes for Children’s rights on November 10.
Derek Nolan is the Labour TD for Galway West