Thursday 14 December 2017

Children's rights vote 'historic'

Count staff at the National Show Centre, Dublin, where a referendum to enshrine children's rights into the constitution was passed
Count staff at the National Show Centre, Dublin, where a referendum to enshrine children's rights into the constitution was passed
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald gives a radio interview at the count centre at Dublin Castle

A referendum vote enshrining children's rights in the constitution has been hailed as historic, despite voter apathy and a lower-than-expected majority.

With 58% in favour of the amendment, Taoiseach Enda Kenny accepted that last week's Supreme Court ruling that public money had been misused in promoting the referendum may have been a factor.

"I think it probably had an effect," he said.

The turnout was one of the lowest in Irish referendum history, 34%, with just over one million people casting a ballot. The Taoiseach suggested a lack of co-ordinated campaigning from the No side and subsequent debate may also have led to some apathy.

"Probably an element here is there was no organised opposition to this particular referendum, people may well have been inclined to say: 'Well, it's going to pass anyway, isn't it?'. But the question has been answered very positively by the people, and I commend them for so doing," he said.

The Taoiseach added: "It is a historic day for the children of Ireland as it is the first time the constitution of this Republic will recognise them as citizens in their own right."

The Yes for Children campaign, spearheaded by the country's leading children's charities, said it was satisfied with the result.

The group, made up of Barnardos, the ISPCC, the Children's Rights Alliance and the Campaign for Children said the amendment would provide "a mandate for better laws, policy and services to improve the protection of children now, and into the future".

Only three of Ireland's 43 constituencies rejected the reforms. Protest votes were recorded in both Donegal constituencies, similar to the experience in last year's European referendum. Donegal South West recorded a 56% No vote, with Donegal North East even more resounding with a 60% rejection following low voter turnout of 24%. Dublin North West also voted No, but with only a difference of 137 votes.

It was only the second public vote to be held on a weekend. Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald suggested the Saturday vote may have played a part in lowering the turnout and that future weekend polls would have to be examined. She said: "We thought it would be a more family-friendly day, but in fact we will have to examine that."

Press Association

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