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Thoughts on the Children’s Referendum October 25, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics.

Many thanks to CMK for the following which I’ve copied and pasted from comments under the thread here.

Is anyone else uneasy about the Children’s Referendum? It’s not the referendum itself, which is all to the good and an improvement on current arrangements. No, what is making me uneasy is the referendum is being conducted at a time when the austerity policies being enforced on this society will worsen, with varying degrees of intensity, both the life experience of many of today’s children and, coupled with the race to the bottom in working conditions and pay, will ensure that when these children do grow up and enter the workplace, they’ll do so under possibly quite savage terms and conditions.

It’s been discussed here before but there is a clear and conscious effort to adopt contradictory positions by the government political parties and the children’s NGO sector in this referendum. On the one hand, all are urging a ‘Yes’ and no-one would argue with them on that – that’s not really a ‘political’ question. Greater constitutional protection for children is urgently required. But, and it’s a significant but, they are all, simultaneously, committed to a policy agenda that they must know will impact dramatically on children. The children’s NGO’s recent, disgraceful, intervention on cutting child benefit, framed as a ‘fairer’ two tier system, belies a willingness to line up with the government on the austerity agenda that will compromise child welfare to a very significant, and damaging degree.

We’re a society where tens of thousands of children are schooled in pre-fabs in large classes; where we’re depriving children with special needs the assistance they require (on a phased basis but the intention is clear to run down SNA provision); where thousands more a schooled in buildings little better than glorified cattle sheds; where the wages and salaries of hundreds of thosands of parents are under incessant attack and cutting, negatively impacting on children’s life experience; where hundreds of thousands of families are facing the prospect of not being able to provide the little luxuries and treats that enhance children’s lives and where the basics (food and clothing etc) are now under threat; where what little direct transfers for children are under unrelenting attack with the intention, eventually, to remove them altogether; and, where tens of thousands of parents are being condemned to artificially maintained high levels of un- and under-employment so as satisfy ‘the market’. These are just some of the many problems impacting on children’s lives. All the while the government, NGO sector and media commetators are clappings themselves in the back over the referendum which will, undoubtedly, improve the constitutional and legal position of children, but will do nothing to shield children from the tsunami of austerity measures that are still to come.


1. Richard - October 25, 2012



2. Wendy Lyon - October 26, 2012

Not forgetting the fact (and it is a fact) that the text originally adopted by all-party Oireachtas Committee was deliberately watered down to prevent immigrant children, or children of immigrants, being able to use it to gain residency for themselves or their parents.

As usual in this country, the No side are the best reason for a Yes vote. The THEY’RE COMING FOR YOUR CHILDREN argument is ludicrous and not at all justified by what’s actually in the amendment, especially considering that Article 41 on the primacy of the family is not being touched and the new text would have to be interpreted harmoniously with it. It would concern me that if the amendment does go down (and I don’t think it will, but don’t underestimate the pockets of vociferous grassroots objection) the assumption would be that it went down because the voters don’t want to give the state more power to separate families, and any new amendment would tweak only these particular elements.

In terms of what’s actually in the amendment, I think it’s certainly likely to have a positive impact on the children actually affected by it. The problem is, that’s really only a small proportion of children – mainly those involved in custody and abuse/neglect matters which are essentially intrafamily proceedings. But most children who are disadvantaged in some way, are disadvantaged due to state neglect of their interests and I don’t see this amendment having any significant impact on them. This is especially so because the jurisprudence of the Irish courts has already made it clear that children’s constitutional rights will not be enforced to the extent of directing budgetary policies in their favour. Talk about “natural and imprescriptible rights” is just so much waffle when we have a legislative/executive apparatus not willing to spend money to secure those rights and a judiciary not willing to compel it to do so.


WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2012


It feels as if it’s not entirely a charade – the referendum, but it doesn’t feel anywhere close to substantial.


RosencrantzisDead - October 26, 2012

This is, of course, the point. The provisions are deliberately vague and weak so not to offend any parts of society. Fine Gael were particularly keen not to offend the Religious Right by ensuring that this amendment does not dislodge or in any way interfere with the rights of the family in the Constitution.

The necessity of the amendment is also questionable, but then necessity, or lack thereof, has never stopped past referendums. The truth is that successive governments use referendums to develop a ‘feel good’ factor in the run up to an election or to pad out the inevitable christmas pamphlet one gets from their government TD. This year’s theme is ‘We love Children (except the poor or foreign ones)’.


3. CL - October 26, 2012

All the constitutional protections in the world will not protect children and other living creatures from the depredations of capital. There are 20,000 children living in homeless shelters in NYC, as Mayor Bloomberg-whose net worthe increases by more than 5 million dollars a day,- congratulates himself at the Conservative Party conference for successfully resisiting a tax on financial transactions. We are in a period of extreme reaction where in response to the crisis the power elite is doubling down on neoliberal austerity as its favoured (non)solution. ‘Socialism or barbarism’-now more than ever.
But, so far, the response of the left to the deepening crisis, in Ireland and elsewhere, is inadequate. Why?


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