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Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth | Child protection measures

To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which he remains satisfied that the rights and entitlements of children are adequately protected without intrusion from any other source or threat; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which children’s rights continue to be maintained in accordance with the Children’s Rights Referendum and subsequent legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Children’s rights, and their enjoyment of these rights, are of paramount importance to my Department, and indeed across Government.  The importance of child-centred policies and protections represent a core value in society where children can flourish and see a brighter future. There is no doubt that we must work towards ensuring this future and empower children to voice what kind of future they want.

Ireland remains firmly committed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a major international human rights treaty that sets out the specific rights of children. The UNCRC was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and Ireland ratified it in 1992.  

The UNCRC has four key principles:

• all the rights guaranteed by the Convention must be available to all children without discrimination of any kind (Article 2);

• the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children (Article 3);

• every child has the right to life, survival and development (Article 6); and

• the child’s views must be considered and taken into account in all matters affecting him or her (Article 12).

The articles of the UNCRC are wide-ranging and cover a number of areas including health, housing, social security, education, leisure and play, child protection and welfare, criminal justice, international protection as well as access to information and participation in decision-making. Ireland is required to submit regular state reports on measures it has taken to progress the implementation of rights under the Convention, with the most recent report submitted in February of this year. Subsequently the State delegation has to appear before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for an oral examination which is anticipated to take place in early 2023.

Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, 2014-2020, concluded at the end of 2020. Officials in my Department are currently developing a new policy framework for children and young people to cover the period from 2023 to 2028.  This new policy framework is adopting a children’s rights approach, informed by the UN Convention on the Rights of Child, envisioning an Ireland in which the rights of children and young people are respected and realised.

The holding of a Referendum on children’s rights was an important commitment of the Government. As you are aware, the 31st Amendment, inserting Article 42A into the Constitution was signed into law on 28th April 2015.  The fact that the Amendment now stands as part of our Constitution represents a considerable and symbolic advance in the identification of children as individual rights holders in our country.

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