Speaking tonight on the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012, Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
“I again confirm that Sinn Féin will proactively commend this constitutional amendment to the electorate. I call on all parties and all members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to join in a united campaign urging a ‘Yes’ vote on 10th November.
“This proposed constitutional change represents an important step forward, affirming for the first time in our Constitution that children have rights and in their own right. We in Sinn Féin, of course, see this as a beginning and not an end in itself.
“This wording will afford children specific rights to care and well-being, as well as the right to be heard in certain matters concerning them.
“The State will have both the duty and the power to intervene on behalf of all children at risk, regardless of their parents’ marital status.
“The state of course, must also step up to the plate.
“The record of past neglect and failures quite understandably leaves a confidence deficit in the minds of many good citizens who would wish to support this referendum proposal.
“Accordingly, it is a duty of you Minister, and of your colleagues in Government, to give not only the strongest guarantees of your intention to not just adequately but generously resource the respective agencies and services that will be entrusted to give effect to the letter and spirit of this constitutional change but to spell out in detail the human and other resources that you will provide on its successful passage.
“As I have said previously, if we as citizens are to entrust the care of those children whose families can no longer care for them to the State, then the State’s care regimes must be accountable and transparent and they must be fit for purpose.
“Enshrining Children’s Rights, as this wording proposes, will ensure that the best interests of the child will be paramount in matters concerning their safety, welfare and guardianship. It will be up to us, and to legislators in the coming years, to build on this valuable platform as we strive to ensure that the best interests of the child becomes paramount in all matters concerning the child – a cornerstone of the UNCRC.
“I am proud of the role that Sinn Féin has played in the all-party engagement that led to the publication of our agreed report in February 2010. I am also proud of our consistent and balanced engagement with you Minister Fitzgerald and with your predecessor Ministers of State with responsibility for Children.
“The need to assert and to confirm the rights of children in our Constitution is above party political considerations. And so it is that we now go before the electorate together, in common cause and with our shared commitment to cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”