Date: 07 November 2006
The Mother and Child Campaign has warned the government against exploiting the plight of children at risk in Ireland to seriously undermine the constitutional and natural rights of Irish parents. Spokeswoman for the campaign, Maria McCluskey, said that the overwhelming majority of Irish parents were devoted to their children and that parents' rights, including the right to best decide as to how to care for their children, should not be under attack by the State.
'Parents are not the enemy of their children,' said Ms McCluskey, 'and children are both constitutionally and legislatively protected from harm in Ireland. Why is the government seeking to make themselves the guardians of all the children of the nation? They seem to want the power to decide what constitutes the best welfare of our children. It's tantamount to saying that parents can't be trusted.'
Ms McCluskey said that previous attempts by the State to control the welfare of children had led to the horrors of the industrial schools, years of horrific child abuse, and a 700 million Euro compensation for the Irish taxpayer. “The safest place in the world for a child to be is with his/her parents', she added. 'In cases where children are at risk, social services are free to remove the child from danger. Amending the Constitution to dilute parents' rights won't change that situation.'
Article 42.5 of the Constitution provides that "In exceptional cases, where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children, the State as guardian of the common good, by appropriate means shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child."
The Mother and Child Campaign spokeswoman said that the wording for a proposed constitutional amendment put forward by Barnados was wide-open to abuse, as it would give the State absolute control to decide what could be defined as protecting the 'welfare' of children. 'Could this mean that parents who decide not to give their children the certain vaccines, for example, would be held to be neglectful and their children requiring State intervention?' said Ms McCluskey.
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