Roscommon report highlights urgency of children’s referendum

I welcome the publication today of the report into the Roscommon child care case.

I also welcome the unreserved and unequivocal apology issued by the HSE today, and hope that it may mark a new dawn in an organisation where heretofore the default response when it came to a crisis like this was to pull up the shutters, and distance themselves from any sense of responsibility.

The report is far-reaching and comprehensive, and Norah Gibbons and the team she led deserve full credit for the work they have done in this respect.

While the authors of the report did not regard recommendations on legislative change as within their remit, they do note that failure to consult with, and to hear the voice of the six children was an important factor in this case.

They also say that the proposed referendum on children’s rights, and the related legislation, would make provision for the voice of the child to be heard, and while they stop short of calling for the referendum to be brought forward, that is certainly the underlying sentiment.

The need for progress on this is one that I would regard as extremely urgent. I would call on the Minister for Children, Barry Andrews, to publish wording for the constitutional amendment and to announce a timetable for the referendum. If he is not in a position to do this now he should indicate clearly what the obstacles are.

The all-party Oireachtas committee agreed a wording earlier this year. No-one will disagree with the need to get the wording right, but it’s a pity that the Minister and the government only identified certain ‘unintended consequences’ in recent weeks, and not during the committee deliberations.

The Labour Party will of course co-operate, as we have throughout, with all reasonable efforts to put in place a Constitutional amendment to enhance the rights of children. We will not, however, tolerate any move designed to delay or further postpone this urgent and essential measure.