Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has harshly criticised the performance of Minister for Children Brian Lenihan at a UN special committee on children’s rights in Geneva. Describing the Minister’s performance as a ‘masterclass in bluff, spin and deception’, he predicted a condemnatory report from the Committee when it publishes its findings.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: “Reports from Geneva yesterday indicate that Minister Lenihan gave a masterclass in bluff, spin and deception to the UN special committee on children’s rights.
“As I pointed out ahead of his remarks, his pledge to examine the Constitution to insert a provision for children’s rights cannot be taken as a serious commitment. Fianna Fáil combined with Fine Gael and PD deputies to reject a comprehensive Sinn Féin proposal for just such a provision earlier this year at the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. He deliberately misled the UN committee yesterday.
“Mr Lenihan also told the committee when questioned on youth justice reform that the age of criminal responsibility has raised from seven to 12, but that children as young as 10 and 11 can be prosecuted for certain offences. What he left out however, was that under the Children’s Act the increase in the age of responsibility to 12 applied to all crimes and that it was Minister McDowell’s recent criminal justice legislation that lowered it. So in reality, the most recent legislative change on the age of criminal responsibility for children by this government was to lower it, not to increase it.
“The content of the question and answer session in Genevayesterday remind me of a child with poorly prepared homework trying to bluff his way through an exam. His admission that only ‘that morning’ had they noticed financial support for asylum-seeking children was a pittance and his blank refusal to accept standard poverty measurements were particular low-points.
“This Government is simply not serious about tackling child poverty, or about putting in place a constitutionally protected rights based approach to children’s issues. In June, the government admitted over 300 separated children seeking asylum have gone missing in Ireland since 2001 and that a number of the centres designated to cater for these children have been operating illegally. Can this government seriously claim to be trustworthy on the issue of children's rights? While Minister Lenihan bluffed his way through the UN committee in Geneva yesterday, I believe the report they publish will be harshly critical of a government for whom children’s rights is very much a minor issue.”