The Children’s Referendum

While it appears unusual that two different booklets are being distributed to homes all over the state both containing much the same information about the Referendum whish is being held on Saturday, November 10th. Both booklets are in Irish and English and that is of course as it should be. The cover of one of the booklets is dominated by yellow and black while the other booklet is multi coloured with green and white being the principal colouring.

One booklet is headed “The Referendum Commission’s Independent Guide” The Children’s Referendum”, while the other booklet reads “Children’s Referendum plus the date” Information Booklet”. This is sent by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and appears to be in favour of a yes vote in the forthcoming Referendum. There is also a further addition of the benefits of a yes vote such as protecting children, supporting families, removing inequalities in adoption, recognising children in their own right.

It is difficult to see the reason for the issuing of both booklets both containing much the same information, not to mention the expense of sending copies to every household in the state at a time when the Government is every day calling for cutbacks and savings in this debt stricken country. While naturally the vast majority of people will be voting in favour of protecting the rights of children in the broader context, there seems to be no political grouping in the country calling for a No vote, so what is all the emphasis and expense on something that already appears to be a foregone conclusion. As in most referendums there is a whole lot of legalistic and confusing language which makes very little sense to the ordinary or average person. Both booklets are very big in terms of what the results of a yes vote will mean if passed, but are very short in detail as much will depend on the interpretation and implementation by the judges and the courts which as usual could prove very costly to parents or others taking litigation or lawsuits of any kind that might be relevant to the results of the referendum if passed.

There is one very important aspect regarding education that requires questioning before voting and this is the deletion of Article 42.5 of the present Article 42.5 of the present constitution which states “In exceptional cases where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children the state, as guardian of the common good, by appropriate means shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard to the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child”.

The above part of Article 42 will be deleted if the referendum is passed, but there is no mention of what would be likely to replace it.

If people read carefully through these booklets they will notice that there are a certain number of anomalies and contradictions in the proposals which bear little relation to real life as it is in this country at the present time. The vast majority of people mostly agree that the children of the nation have their rights and that all of them irrespective of their social status or that of their parents need to be treated with equal concern by both the government and agents of the state. This concept is fine in theory but as we all know it does not always happen in practice and it is easy to see that children, yes and adolescents too, who belong to some of the poorer categories of Irish society are often in the course of their lives discriminated against and never given a chance to reach their full potential by the agencies of the state.

On the other hand there are a minority of young people, teenagers and even younger children, some unfortunately coming out of good homes, who get involved in gangs in every city, town and even most villages throughout the country. These can create chaos and become a menace to ordinary decent law abiding people by their acts of vandalism, anti-social behaviour and in more recent times by the boy racers craze which was a real danger to law-abiding drivers and other road users who happened to be out on their lawful business late at night. This mad driving craze seems to have eased off somewhat within the past year or so perhaps because of the recession these young lads have no longer the money to indulge in this so-called “sport” since their dole allowance was cut.

Perhaps there are others apart from social welfare recipients who are involved in the above type of activities and other forms of mischief making as already stated many of these boys and yes, girls as well are mere children and far too young to be getting social welfare allowances in their own right, other than the social welfare which their parents are receiving on their behalf. But in case the wrong impression is given let it be clearly stated that children of working class, professional as well as other social classes can often be involved in anti-social activities of various kinds as well. But the question one would like to pose is; what is the referendum, if passed, going to do for children and teenagers in the above categories? . While it is obvious that at least some of these young people are misfits, what schemes would the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have in mind to re-train and reform them while they are still young and turn them into useful, law-abiding citizens if it is possible to do so. If this remains undone then the referendum could prove to be a useless exercise. It is one thing to have something enshrined in the law and the Constitution and another thing altogether to have it put into practice in the reality of everyday life.

Again let us take a subject such as school bullying which, according to news reports, is now widespread all over the country both at primary and secondary level and which is by all accounts having a detrimental effect psychologically on a big number of children. This is a major problem for many children as well as their parents and how, one might ask, will the passing of the referendum help in this major problem. Also how will it help overstretched and stressed teachers to deal with troublesome children who are coming from homes where they are out of control. There is no answer about these everyday problems and realities set out in the booklets that we received concerning the referendum on Saturday next, the contents of both booklets are all presented in general, legalistic language which is mumbo jumbo to many of the plain people of our country. However, seeing that it is an attempt of at least some kind to vindicate the rights of all children against injustice and discrimination most people are expected to vote yes to it in the hope that it just might make a difference if the Government and its various departments are ready to put theory and promises into reality. Time will surely tell.


Late Ned Dwyer

The death occurred recently of Ned Dwyer of Newcastle West. Ned was a former Labour member of Limerick County Council for many years in which he served his constituents well. He was also a friendly and approachable person and had as well a sense of humour. We often came across him where he was a resident in Beechwood Nursing Home, Newcastle West when we were holding Ceol Luimnigh concerts there. Sympathy is extended to his family members and relatives. May his soul rest in peace.

Drom/Broadford and Crokes Champions

Drom/Broadford had a narrow victory over Newcastle West at the Gaelic Grounds on Friday evening in the replayed Limerick County football final.

On Sunday Crokes, Killarney won the Kerry County football final for the third successive year defeating Dingle 2-13 to 0-8 in Killarney.

Drom/Broadford and Crokes will now compete in the Munster Club Championships.