September Blog

This past week has been interesting and varied for me. We had our ‘Think In’ in beautiful Westport and I followed that up with climbing Croagh Patrick, which came close to causing a Bye-Election in Cavan/Monaghan! I limped back to Cavan for the I.V.E.A Conference in the Slieve Russell. A wonderful event with excellent speeches by Ministers Quinn and Cannon, a superb dinner and to cap it all off, an outstanding performance by the VEC Schools Choir and musicians, led by Dáire O’Reilly. Then it was on to Cootehill for the eighth ‘Gerry Whelan Commemoration’. This event brought a contingent of traditional musicians, singers and dancers into the town. The Friday night concert in Drumlin House was memorable. Saturday was a day of leaflet distribution in Cavan Town, followed by the first of the Senior Championship Semi-Finals with Kingscourt emerging as victors over Castlerahan.
On the second day of our Westport conference we had talks from Minister Frances Fitzgerald and acclaimed lawyer Mr. Geffory Shannon on the upcoming Childrens Rights Referendum, which will be taking place for the first time on a Saturday, November 10th. Their talks were truly inspirational and informative. The suggestion that we need a Constitutional Amendment for explicity establish the rights of the child go back to comments by Judge McGuinness in 1993. The Kilkenny Report and many subsequent reports, right up to the contemporary and gruesome Roscommon Case, all give eloquent testimony of major failures in Child Welfare, assisted by a lack of Constitutional proliferations. Our own Minister Alan Shatter has been a long time advocate for Children’s Rights. Nothing establishes the need for a Referendum more than the fact that a High Court action prevented the removal of the victimised children from the family home. The Constitutional requirement for the Courts to act otherwise was not strong enough. The existing Constitution puts a heavy onus of proof of extreme neglect on the State when seeking to remove children from a married couple. Adoption of the children of married couples is not possible, even where all evidence would suggest that a child’s future lies with potential adoptees and that the family home is an unsafe place for them. Although Article 40.3 protects personal rights, there is a lack of absolute clarity. It is open to the interpretation of the Judge.
Needless to say that a child is not or will not be taken into care until it is established that everything possible was done to protect the child within the family and to support the family. Article, 41, defending the family home is the preferred option if all possible. However, if there is a total breakdown there of one form or another, children should not have to want to enlighten for adoption, prejudicing their Welfare. We need to be unequivocal and unambiguous in our commitment to the rights of children. Our Constitution must explicitly state this. I will be campaigning for a Yes Vote in the upcoming Referendum on Children’s Rights. If you want to help then please get in touch.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website