Tuesday 23 January 2018

Shatter backs child rights vote win

People campaign for a Yes vote in the children's rights referendum on Saturday
People campaign for a Yes vote in the children's rights referendum on Saturday

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has predicted a victory for Government plans to enshrine children's rights in the constitution.

With polls opening on Saturday on the back of a politically damaging Supreme Court ruling, ministers insisted the vote should go ahead. More than 3.1 million people are eligible to cast their ballot with polling stations open from 9am to 10pm.

And Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he believed the public will grab the chance to do something to contribute to further protect children.

"It gives many people who have been upset and outraged by revelations of child abuse of the past an opportunity to do something positive, to put provisions in our constitution to try and ensure we provide better protection for children in the future," he said.

The proposed constitutional amendment looks at a number of areas of children's rights including adoption, protection, state intervention in neglect cases and giving children a say in their own protection proceedings.

Forty-eight hours out from the vote, the Government's use of public funds was held by the Supreme Court to have been wrong with extensive passages said to breach rules on fairness.

The judgment, in the case taken by Dublin-based engineer Mark McCrystal, found the Government wrongly used a 1.1 million euro fund in some of the publicity put out by the Referendum Commission. The court did not consider the actual constitutional amendment itself.

Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein all back the children's rights reforms. However, five TDs wrote to the Government on the back of the court ruling urging the vote be delayed. Mr McCrystal's case, based on the 1995 McKenna case, contested that public funds cannot be used to promote a vote one way or another in a referendum.

Less than half the 2,000-plus islanders eligible to vote off Donegal, Mayo and Galway went to the polls early in the week as stations open to avoid bad weather hampering collection and counting of ballots.

Counting of votes from the 43 constituencies takes place on Sunday from 9am. Results will be fed through to the Referendum Returning Officer Riona Ni Fhlanghaile at Dublin Castle. The first indications of the outcome should be known before lunchtime, unless the vote is split by a narrow margin.

Press Association

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