The proposed new article of the Irish constitution – Article 42A – is titled ‘children’. It foresees to affirm the rights of the child and to allow the Irish State, in exceptional cases, to take the place of parents when they decline their duty to take care of their child. Also, the article stipulates for adoption of children whose parents, irrespective of marital status, fail in their responsibility. Further, the best interest of the child must be considered in judiciary and custody proceedings. The views of the child must be taken into account in these proceedings, having regard to the child’s age and maturity.
The referendum on children’s rights comes almost twenty years after calls for constitutional changes were made in Ireland for the first time. The wording is based on a report that a special joint Committee of the Irish Parliament, the “Oireachtas”, had submitted in February 2010.
Following the presentation of the article, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced that Mrs Finlay Geoghegan, Judge of the Irish High Court, will head the referendum commission. According to Irish referendum law, an independent referendum commission must be established to inform the Irish public about the subject matter. The referendum commission is to be chaired by a serving High court judge or a former Supreme court judge.
To date 33 referenda have been held in the Republic of Ireland on a broad variety of themes such as the accession to the European communities (1972), abortion (1983), citizenship (2004) and divorce (1995). Following the vote on the Treaty on the European Stability Mechanism in May 2012, the referendum on children’s rights will be the second popular vote to take place in Ireland this year.
- Website by the Irish Government on the children’s referendum at http://www.childrensreferendum.ie/
- Website of the referendum commission at www.refcom.ie/en/
- The referendum procedure in Ireland. A practical guide by the Irish Government, July 2012, at www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/Voting/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,1893,en.pdf
Text by Cora Pfafferott