Sunday 22 October 2017

Children's rights vote 'unlikely to be held this year'

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Fresh doubts emerged last night over the holding of the referendum on children's rights this year.

The Government was planning to hold the long-awaited referendum on the same day as the Presidential election in November.

The Coalition has a number of referendums to hold on that day, including changes to the Constitution to give additional powers to Oireachtas committees and to allow judges' pay to be cut.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald was appointed to a full cabinet position in the new Government with the referendum top of the agenda.

But a government source told the Irish Independent the thinking within the Cabinet was that the children's rights referendum was unlikely to be held this year.

The anticipated delay is again down to the complex legal drafting of legislation for a referendum to provide greater protection of children and to close off a number of loopholes.

However, a source close to the minister said November was still the target date for the referendum.

"We're working on it as a priority on the basis that it will be November, but it depends on the legal and drafting issues in it. If they can be properly dealt with in time to publish and pass a bill and supporting legislation with sufficient time for the Referendum Commission, then it will be November," the source said.

The wording proposed by a cross-party Oireachtas committee was rejected by the previous Government as it would have had unintended knock-on effects for the State.

Commitment

Earlier this month, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government would consider holding a children's rights referendum on the same day as the Presidential election.

Mr Kenny said children's rights groups had said it might be possible to arrive at an arrangement and the Children's Minister was looking at the issue.

But this week, Mr Kenny watered down this commitment as he admitted the Government had no date for the holding of the referendum.

The Taoiseach said there was a change in the wording put forward by an Oireachtas committee on the referendum.

He said he couldn't give a commitment that a referendum would be held at any particular time this year.

Irish Independent

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