Friday 15 November 2019

Weekend poll bid to boost turnout for children's vote

Children's minister Frances Fitzgerald said Saturday was chosen to allow a
Children's minister Frances Fitzgerald said Saturday was chosen to allow a "child-centred approach to the holding of a referendum".

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

VOTERS will go to the polls on a Saturday for the first time in a decade to decide on the long-awaited children's rights referendum.

The wording of the referendum will be known today and the poll will take place on November 10.



The second Nice referendum was held on a Saturday in October 2002, and it was also the last time the disastrous e-voting machines were given an outing.



Children's minister Frances Fitzgerald said Saturday was chosen to allow a "child-centred approach to the holding of a referendum".



A government spokesman said it was also hoped that holding the vote on a Saturday would boost turnout.



It is also believed it could pave the way for future referendums -- such as the one on abolishing the Seanad -- to be held on the weekend. The wording of the referendum will be announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and children's minister Frances Fitzgerald at a press conference today.



Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and Independent TDs will be briefed on the wording before the press conference.



It is likely every household will be posted information leaflets by the Government, as well as the independent Referendum Commission.



Mr Kenny said the Government is committed to the protection of Irish children and the passing of the referendum would represent a historic step forward.



Ms Fitzgerald said: "This referendum is one of the most significant in the history of the State, which after years of inaction I am now bringing forward.



"I am very pleased by the decision of Government to hold this historic referendum on a Saturday," she added.



Youth Work Ireland (YWI) welcomed the decision to hold a Saturday vote, saying it is a "huge step towards addressing poor turnout rates for young people in the Irish political process".



"There have been numerous requests and attempts to make a change like this down the years to allow young people participate fully in decisions which affect them," said Michael McLoughlin from YWI.



The referendum wording is said to be broadly in line with the draft wording produced by an all-party Oireachtas committee two years ago.



It is understood the main elements to be presented to Cabinet by Ms Fitzgerald will include measures to:



- Ensure a child has its own rights, as well as the rights it has as part of a family.



- "Re-calibrate" or redefine how the State can intervene when a family have failed a child. l Allow adoption of a child "where appropriate" -- for example, making it easier to adopt a child who has been in long-term care after he or she has been failed by their parents.



- Make sure the best interests of a child are dominant in any court proceedings and that the views of the child are also heard.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News