Varadkar dispels myths being spread by No side in Children’s Referendum.

5th November, 2012

Fine Gael’s Director of Elections for the Children’s Referendum Campaign, Minister Leo Varadkar TD, has moved to dispel myths being spread by the No side over the last week, which he said could cause some members of the public to be misled on one of the most important referenda in the history of our State.

“I am beginning to become concerned at the constant misinformation being propagated by the No side, as we are just a week from polling day. There seems to be a complete disregard for the truth from many of those opposing this Referendum. I welcome debate and discussion; but it is incumbent on us all to ensure that we stick to the facts and just the facts.

“Deeply disturbing statements are being made by the No side, ranging from claims about forced adoption to the suggestion that this Referendum is a threat to parents’ rights. These are desperate attempts to derail a Referendum that, if passed, will have a hugely positive effect on child protection in this country.

“A Yes vote will remove inequalities in adoption, meaning children in long term foster care have a better chance of a safe and secure home in the long term, regardless of the marital status of their parents. At the moment, it is virtually impossible for these children to be adopted by their foster families. Voting Yes will change this.

“Voting Yes will not, in any way, lead to forced adoptions. That’s nonsense.  There are a number of safeguards in Irish adoption law to prevent this. An adoption must go through the Adoption Authority, and must be approved by the High Court. Anyone who wishes to be heard, including the prospective adopters, the natural parents or other relatives, must be heard. And an adoption will only be granted if it is in the child’s best interests. This Referendum will not change any of these safeguards; it will simply mean that all children are treated equally in future.

“So how exactly do the claims of forced adoptions stand up?

“Extraordinary claims have also been made about children in State care. First of all, the vast majority of children in care in Ireland live with foster families, not in institutions or residential homes. Kathy Sinnott made the incredible claim earlier this week that children are six times more likely to die in State care. In reality, the death rate of children in care is broadly in line, indeed slightly lower most years, with the death rate of the general population. Anyone who doubts this should read the report of the Independent Child Death Review Group.

“Ludicrous claims have been made about how passing this Referendum will somehow negatively ‘lock us in’ to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  We ratified the UNCRC 20 years ago. It has been ratified by more countries than any other human rights convention. Since we ratified it, we have done much to act on its principles. But this Referendum doesn’t refer to it in any way, so it’s a bit of a mystery what point the No side is trying to make on this issue.

“Finally, it is worth, once again, addressing the claim that this Referendum could threaten the rights of parents, or the family. Article 41 of the Constitution deals with the rights of the family, and this Referendum will not change a single word of it. The rights and protections granted to the family by the Constitution remain intact and untouched.  This has been clarified not only by the independent Chair of the Referendum Commission, but also by a coalition of parent’s groups who have urged a Yes vote.

“Those opposing this Referendum are doing us all a disservice by resorting to inaccurate, groundless claims. This Referendum, at its very core, is about protecting children and supporting families. A Yes vote will offer those children who are at risk in their own home, greater protection. It will ensure children are listened to, their interests are paramount and that all children are treated equally in adoption. A resounding Yes vote will be a clear statement that we, as a nation, have learned from the child protection failings that have blighted our past. It is up to us all to make that statement by turning out to vote on Saturday, November 10th.”