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Sinn Féin submission to All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution

2 February, 2005

Party proposals to strengthen Equality and Human Rights

Sinn Féin today submitted its proposals to strengthen constitutional protection of Fundamental Rights in the state. The submission was delivered to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, in the context of its review of articles 40-42 on Family Rights, by Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD.

The main proposals call for the Constitution to be changed to reflect international obligations and "secular values", for the removal of provisions which "discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual orientation", for the "augmentation of equality provisions", and for the specific inclusion of children's rights and socio-economic rights.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "The 1937 constitution, particularly the articles in relation to the family, reflects the dominant religious ethos and political philosophy of 1930s Ireland. These provisions have always been controversial and were widely opposed by women's groups at the time because they marked a definitive break with the promise of equality for all citizens contained in the 1916 Proclamation. Present provisions in this section actively discriminate against women, against lesbians and gays, against unmarried people, and offer no real guarantee against discrimination on any ground. On this basis, Sinn Féin proposes a number of changes to strengthen constitutional protection of the human rights and equality of all citizens as befits Ireland in the 21st century.

"The 1937 constitution also fails to explicitly recognise the rights of the child. At minimum, it must be amended to guarantee the fullest protection of children's rights as decreed in international law.

"In an equal society social and economic rights are just as important as civil and political rights. Yet apart from the right to education, socio-economic rights do not even figure in the 1937 constitution. Consistent with our Equality Agenda, we are advocating constitutional guarantees of the equal right to housing, healthcare, childcare and employment among others.

"Sinn Féin is firmly committed to realising full equality and human rights within Irish society. This is what we mean by an Ireland of Equals. Our proposals for changes to the 1937 constitution reflect this determination, are constructive, and I call on the Committee to afford them serious consideration." ENDS

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