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Morgan makes clear Sinn Féin dissent on Constitution Committee Report

19 January, 2006

Sinn Féin member of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution Arthur Morgan T.D. today put on record his party’s dissenting position with regard to the recommendations contained in the Committee’s Report on the Family due to be published next Tuesday.  Deputy Morgan made his comments following newspaper coverage of the contents of the report.

Deputy Morgan said, “The consideration by the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution of the rights of the family offered a long-awaited opportunity to deal with outdated and flawed elements of the 1937 Constitution.  Sinn Féin had hoped that the members of the Committee would grasp the opportunity to deal conclusively with the issue of the definition of the family and address the plight of those non-traditional family formations who find themselves discriminated against in the Constitution. 

“Sinn Féin regrets that certain members of the committee allowed fears regarding a divisive referendum to prevent them supporting proposals to substantially amend the Constitution.

“The definition of the family in Article 41.3.2 serves to unnecessarily limit family rights and hampers the realisation of full equality rights.  Because constitutional protection for families is only extended to heterosexual families, based on marriage, this permits discrimination against other family formation.  Given the diversity of family formations which exist in the state today, this definition of family is clearly inadequate and discriminatory.   Almost everybody knows somebody in relationship other than traditional marriage.  The state must move to recognise the status of these relationships.

“The balance between the rights of the family as a unit and the rights of individual members favours the family disproportionately.  The absence of an explicit recognition of the rights of the child, in a separate article, means that the Constitution is in direct conflict with human rights obligations entered into by the state.  Sinn Féin proposed the inclusion of a substantial new article on the rights of the child as follows:  

1.         The State guarantees to cherish all the children of the nation equally. All children, in addition to the individual rights guaranteed to all persons in this Constitution, are entitled to the special care and assistance essential to childhood. Each child has the right to reach his or her potential as an individual and as a member of the community.

2.         The State shall ensure, as far as is possible, that every child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, shall grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

3.         The State shall ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

4.            Children have the right to be heard, to be consulted in all matters affecting them and to access information about their person.

5.         In all actions concerning children undertaken by or on behalf of the State the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration.

“The proposals to be contained in the report to be published next Tuesday fall far short of the inclusion of such an article which Sinn Féin vehemently argued for during the committee’s consideration of the issue.

“Overall Sinn Fein is very disappointed with the limited nature of the changes proposed in the soon to be published 10th Progress Report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution.”  ENDS

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