Proposed Children’s Rights Referendum Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Since the wording for the Children’s Rights Referendum was announced a few weeks ago, I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so uncomfortable with it. People I like and admire – like Senator Jillian van Turnhout and Tanya Ward –  are fully behind the proposed wording, arguing that our children are not sufficiently protected by the Irish Constitution. I agree with them on that point, but I am gravely concerned that the proposed constitutional amendment doesn’t go far enough.

And I am concerned that we have a history of ‘settling’ in this country. The belief that ‘half a loaf is better than none’ seems to permeate our collective consciousness.   Nearly a hundred years ago, a delegation left these shores for Westminster to negotiate a treaty with England. Accepting something that was less than what the majority wanted led to civil war and decades of sectarian violence on this island.

More recently, we had a Civil Partnership Bill, which recognised the validity of relationships where people are committed to each other, but not married. It was a sop to same-sex couples, recognising their unions and allowing them certain rights under the law – particularly in regard to taxation.  For many couples, however, it just doesn’t go far enough. There are several areas where the disparity between marriage and civil partnership – and many of them are detailed here.

But civil partnership was heralded as great progress when it was signed into legislation nearly two years ago. In spite of the fact that it doesn’t offer parity with marriage – it cannot reasonably be called ‘gay marriage’ because it’s not. But it’s half a loaf. So we’ve grabbed at it gratefully and thought it was a toe in the door. Hopeful, perhaps, that later it could be amended to

It’s a slowly, slowly catchee monkey approach that so characterises an Irish approach to change. Instead of standing up and demanding the full loaf that we’re entitled to, we gratefully accept a morsel, a slice or a half loaf and tell ourselves ‘it’s a start’.

When it comes to our children, this approach sickens me. If you take a look at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child  and compare it with the wording for the proposed amendment to the constitution , you can see that the proposed amendment does not go far enough – it does not discharge its duty to protect and care for the children of this nation in line with the UNCRC. You might think about that before you vote.