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A short outline of the issues surrounding the Children’s Referendum on November 10th was given to the AEJ lunch on Friday, November 2nd by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD.

The Minister said there was a huge lack of awareness by Irish society about rights of children. There was currently a lot of discussion about children’s rights at EU level in terms of how far to go by way of legislations, guidelines, self-regulation etc.

She said the referendum was about putting children at the centre of society and about human rights. It was about putting in place a process of dealing with the horrific stories that we read about regularly in the media. She said there were around 1,500 cases of child abuse or neglect reported every year which was a very large number for a country like Ireland.

The referendum was about moving from implicit to explicit rights and giving these rights constitutional authority.

The Minister also gave a brief summary of the other work of her new Department and the challenges ahead.

Minister Fitzgerald said she preferred to take questions from members and have an interactive discussion. This continued for 40 minutes with a number of members asking questions.