Campaigners call for 'children's rights referendum'
Published 20/05/2010 | 15:53
The Government was criticised today for its slow response in protecting children in the wake of a sickening report into the cover-up of clerical abuse.
Eight charities and support groups marked the first anniversary of the Ryan Report by demanding politicians focus on children's rights and set a date for a referendum.
The Saving Childhood Ryan campaign stressed vulnerable youngsters all over the country are still without social workers while the Government had failed to implement most of its own 99-point action plan.
Fergus Finlay, of Barnardos, said several requests to meet Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Environment Minister John Gormley - as leaders of Fianna Fail and the Green Party - have also been refused.
"Every other political party in the state has met us and gone through our concerns in a detailed basis and I can't understand why it isn't possible for the Taoiseach to set an hour aside," he said.
"We all know how busy he is, but children matter."
The harrowing Ryan Report revealed the Government and Catholic Church covered up almost four decades of sexual abuse and beatings by priests and nuns on thousands of children in state care.
After its release, Children's Minister Barry Andrews launched an implementation plan and pledged to complete 99 specific actions within agreed timeframes.
Andrew Madden, the first survivor of clerical abuse to go public, said a vulnerable child can't wait two or three years for a change of policy or Government.
"If you're a child at 11 years of age, that's an very important part of your life," he said.
"If that child doesn't have a social worker or a care plan, then that child's life will be affected by that."
Campaigners also criticised the lack of political will to hold a referendum on children's rights.
Jillian van Turnhout, of Children's Rights Alliance, called on households nationwide to lobby politicians to set a date for the referendum.
"As a nation we have closed our eyes to injustices against the children who we should be cherishing," she said.
"It is time for us to fight for childhood together."
Elsewhere, support groups also condemned cuts in Government funding while record numbers of survivors of clerical abuse were coming forward for help.
Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said first-time callers to its helpline rose by 42% last year.
"The scars of their past will take a long time to heal and having to endure waiting lists to access services is unacceptable," she added.
"Many survivors are languishing on waiting lists as we speak."
Mr Andrews later vowed that 200 social workers would be employed by the end of the year.
"It is happening, but there are no quick fixes," he added.