Tuesday 23 January 2018

Defence for smacking removed by Seanad

The Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon said the amendment 'at long last places Ireland on an equal footing with the vast majority of European member states'
The Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon said the amendment 'at long last places Ireland on an equal footing with the vast majority of European member states'

Jane O'Faherty

Ireland has moved closer to a ban on smacking children after members of the Seanad voted to remove a key defence from proposed legislation.

If the Children First Bill 2014 is enacted, parents will no longer be able to plead the defence of "reasonable chastisement" if charged with hitting their child.

Public figures and interest groups have welcomed the amendment, but say that more could be done to help parents when disciplining children.

Punishment

The Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon said the amendment "at long last places Ireland on an equal footing with the vast majority of European member states".

At present, 28 member states of the Council of Europe have prohibited the corporal punishment of children in all settings.

Mary Nicholson, Head of Advocacy with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), said that slapping children had the effect of condoning the use of physical violence and had consequences for their mental health.

"We would say strongly that a man who hits a woman or a woman who hits a man is guilty of assault," she said.

"Likewise, I couldn't hit my colleague if I didn't like what she was doing. Why should it be different for children?"

Ms Nicholson said that the new legislation should be paired with increased support for parents. She also suggested a phone line or nationally-led hub for parents who are "at the end of their tether".

Laura Haugh of MummyPages.ie said the site's online community "wholeheartedly support" the campaign to repeal the defence of reasonable chastisement.

However, she added that the provision of parenting handbooks, group discussion and coaching from experts would be beneficial.

A spokesperson for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs stated that the Tusla website provided various documents and resources with advice for parents.

Irish Independent

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