Commentary Published on the Proposed Referendum on the Rights of the Child

Mar 21 2012 Posted: 12:41 GMT

Ireland’s two UNESCO Chair holders came together today to launch a joint Commentary on the proposed referendum on the rights of the child in Ireland.  The 16-page document, ‘Children’s Rights and the Family’, forms a major part of the work of the Children and Youth Programme, an independent academic collaboration between Professor Alan Smith at the University of Ulster and Professor Pat Dolan from NUI Galway. 

Speaking today Professor Dolan, who is Director of the Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, and holds the UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement stated: “As the two UNESCO Chairs on the island of Ireland, we welcome the commitment by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD to hold a referendum on the Rights of the Child in Ireland in 2012, and we look forward to engaging positively in the debate to come over the next number of months.”

The Commentary is intended as a helpful stimulus to that debate, in particular, on the issue of children’s rights and their interplay with the family.

According to Professor Dolan: “The referendum is an important opportunity to strengthen children’s rights in Ireland and we hope that all parties approach the campaign in an open and honest way, making arguments based on evidence, and always with the best interests of children as the primary motivating concern. This is the basis on which we hope to proceed.

As members of the UNESCO International education network, the authors of the commentary strongly believe that incorporating a stronger commitment to children’s rights in the constitution would build a stronger culture of children’s rights in Irish society and is in keeping with the state’s international obligations.

Professor Dolan continued: “We are also clear that it poses no threat to the rights of others in society. We hope to show that it is an approach underpinned by clear and consistent obligations that will cherish all children equally. A stronger culture of children’s rights in Ireland could also serve to ensure that all children equally have their rights respected, irrespective of their family status.

We want to be clear from the outset that the rights and well-being of children, parents and society are inextricably linked and complementary. Our perspective is simple, what is good for children is good for their parents and ultimately to the benefit of civic society. 2012 can be a defining year for children and young people in Ireland. And it needs to be – the best legacy that we can leave the next generation is a commitment that their rights are protected and enhanced, that they have some certainty in an increasingly uncertain world.”


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