Children’s Referendum isn’t about the norm, it’s about the exceptional – Noonan

5th November, 2012

Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, has said the Children’s Referendum isn’t about the norm, where families take good care of their
children, it is about the exceptional cases when children are abused and neglected in their own home. Minister Noonan is addressing a public meeting this afternoon in Limerick, with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD.

 The meeting is also being addressed by Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, and Wayne Dignam, former foster child and board member of the Irish Foster Care Association.

 Minister Noonan said: ‘I was one of the deputies who, under the previous Government, served on the all-party Committee that worked to introduce appropriate wording on children’s rights to the Constitution. So I have had a particular interest in this area for some time. Frances Fitzgerald, who also served on that Committee, rightly took that wording when she became Minister for Children, and carefully examined it, removing anything that was unnecessary or redundant. The new wording, being put to the people this coming Saturday in the Children’s Referendum, is stronger, more succinct, and more focussed’.

 “This Referendum isn’t about the norm, it’s about the exceptional. The norm in Ireland is great families taking care of their children, doing everything they can to support, love and nurture them. But the exceptional also occurs. In exceptional cases in this country, children are being abused and neglected in their own homes. And it is very important that in these exceptional cases, the State can intervene to protect children at risk. That’s what we are talking about here; children at serious risk, who need protection.

 “This amendment continues to recognise that children are best reared by their parents. But in cases where parents fail, this Referendum will allow action to be taken to ensure the safety of children. Any intervention must be proportionate, which means any action must deal with the problems causing harm to the child. So if, for example, an addicted parent was not giving a child the care they need, the first step would be to provide the parent with addiction counselling and support. Taking a child out of the home is always the final option.

 “We have been talking about the need for this Referendum for some time; almost 20 years in fact. This Saturday, November 10th, we all have an opportunity to respond to the legacy of reports on child protection failures that have left us feeling shocked and ashamed. I would urge people to turn out in high numbers on Saturday to have a profound impact on how we protect vulnerable children in this country.”