A ‘Mere’ Two Years Later, the Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on the Rights of the Child Finally Comes Up with Wording
A previous entry on this blog stated that if there is to be a constitutional amendment on the rights of the child, then it must be done right. The same piece questioned whether the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children would be up to the challenge. Next week, after over a two-year wait, we will find out.
The Irish Times has reported that a rewrite of Article 42 of the Constitution, entitled Education, is to be proposed by the Committee. In contrast to the approach adopted in the Twenty-eighth Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2007 (which was initiated by the Government in February 2007), the Committee is proposing a new Article 42 rather than simply the addition of a paragraph to the article. While this seems likely to be a positive development given the often-cited shortcomings of the current Article 42 in terms of children’s rights protection, a final judgment cannot be reached until the full wording of the proposed amendment is available.
Notably, the Committee has apparently agreed not to propose any amendment to Article 41, which critics have frequrently blamed for serving as an obstacle to the realisation of children’s rights. This will be a serious disappointment to those, including the Ombudsman for Children, who have argued that such an amendment is necessary if children are to be afforded proper protection under the Constitution. The failure of the Committee to tackle Article 41 is unsurprising, however, given the long-standing stance of the government on the ‘untouchability’ of this issue. For instance, in 2006, at the outset of the previous consultation process to agree the goverment’s formulation of wording for a constitutional amendment, the then-Minister for Children made it clear to participants that a change to Article 41 – in particular, the interpretation of “family” as being based on marriage – was not under consideration.
A fuller analysis of the proposed wording will be be posted on this blog once that wording is available. In the meantime, the submissions made by the Committee can be found here, while the interim reports of the Committee are available here.