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Ó Caoláin rules out decoupling sexual abuse aspects from Children's Rights Referendum

7 February, 2008

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, and member of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, has again highlighted the danger of decoupling the sexual abuse aspects of the proposed referendum from the broader protections and rights provisions that are so badly needed by all children.

"Speaking at the Committee yesterday, in both private and public, I argued that the proposal to split children's rights and protections into two referenda would mean that only sexual abuse would be dealt with now and everything else would be put on the long finger and possibly indefinitely. The Taoiseach himself acknowledges that this could be the outcome of such a decision.

"The CSO's most recent Headline Crime Statistics show that in 2007 offences of 'Abandoning a child, child neglect and cruelty' increased by 86.8% (to a total number of 566 recorded offences). This statistic underlines the urgency of a comprehensive referendum on children's rights so that their best interests are brought to the centre of every decision relating to them - from decisions to allow long-term foster carers adopt through to custody and access arrangements. Child abuse presents itself in many manifestations including physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and sexual abuse. As the above crime statistic demonstrates there are many children out there desperately and urgently in need of comprehensive constitutional protection.

"The position of Sinn Féin is shared by the Children's Rights Alliance who attended the public session of yesterday's committee meeting and is clearly also the view of the Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan who spoke on Morning Ireland on the subject earlier today.

"Any suggestion that an all-party consensus to decouple might be reached is unfounded. The proposal to indefinitely put off the comprehensive constitutional changes that are required is unacceptable to Sinn Féin and seems to have arisen from closed side meetings between the government and other opposition parties. As a member of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee established to agree the wording for the referendum I will continue to urge the delivery of the full comprehensive Children's Rights amendment to our Constitution that is so urgently needed." ENDS

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