The Referendum Commission is calling on the people of Leitrim to inform themselves and to use their vote on Saturday, November 10.
The call comes as the Referendum Commission launches its public information campaign on the Children Referendum. Commenting at the launch Commission Chairperson, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said, “The role of the Referendum Commission as set out in law is to give a general explanation of the subject matter of the referendum proposal. The Commission’s role is also to raise awareness of the referendum and to encourage people to vote.”
The Commission has written a Guide to the Children Referendum proposal which will be made available to all voters. The Chairperson said, “The distribution of our Guide has begun and it will go to just over 2 million homes in the State. Distribution will take about ten days. This guide aims to describe the proposal as clearly as possible and includes the text of the proposed new article and relevant existing articles of the Constitution.
“More detailed background information and useful links will be available on our website www.referendum2012.ie. We will be running an extensive public information campaign in all media seeking to explain the proposal and encourage people to vote and this will begin on radio and television, in newspapers and online in a couple of days time.”
There are four main elements to the proposed amendment to the Constitution.
1. Explicit obligation to protect and vindicate the rights of children.
If it is approved the Constitution will explicitly recognise that children have rights, and that the State is obliged as far as practicable by its laws to protect and vindicate those rights.
2. State intervention if parents fail in their duty.
It would make some changes to the existing constitutional provision in relation to State intervention in exceptional cases where parents fail in their duty to a child. At the moment the Constitution provides that the State, with due regard for the rights of the child, may intervene and try to supply the place of parents in those exceptional cases where the parents have failed in their duty towards the child.
The proposed amendment would continue to apply these conditions for State intervention, and it would add that this may happen whether or not the parents are married and where the parents’ failure is likely to put the safety and welfare of the child at risk. The existing article requires the State to use appropriate means and does not require that those means be set out in law.
The proposed new article provides that the State’s intervention must use proportionate means which must be set out in law
The proposed amendment would mean that the state must legislate to permit adoption including by voluntary placement of any child, whether or not the parents are married.
Also it would require the law to allow adoption of any child where the parents have failed, for a time to be specified in law, in their duty towards the child, and where adoption is in the best interests of the child.
4. Best interests and views of the child.
The final element would oblige the State to pass laws requiring the courts to consider the best interests of the child as paramount, when making decisions in certain proceedings relating to a child’s safety or welfare, adoption, guardianship, custody of, or access to a child. It would also mean the State must pass laws requiring the courts where practicable to ascertain and take into account the views of a child having regard to his or her age and maturity prior to taking such decisions.
The Referendum Commission Guide is also available online on its website at www.referendum2012.ie. It also has a dedicated phone line 1890 270 970. The Guide and website will feature text in both English and Irish.
Voters who have difficulty accessing conventional information material, can inform themselves via the versions of the Guide in Braille, Irish Sign Language DVDs, audio CDs and large print versions of the guide.
The Commission will also be using Irish Sign Language on some of its television advertisements.
The other elements of the Commission’s public information campaign, which will begin later this week, will include advertising appearing on radio, television, in newspapers and online giving brief explanations of the proposal.