Three major issues remain to be thrashed out before the Government can hold the long-awaited children’s rights referendum, it was revealed today.
Children’s Minister Barry Andrews said work was being done to try and tackle potential unintended consequences of the law reform – around five months after the plans for a constitutional amendment received cross-party support.
“On the substantial children’s rights issue I believe that there is still some more work that needs to be done in terms of looking at the wording and the consequences of it,” Mr Andrews said.
“We are absolutely determined to produce a bill that we will put before the people in due course.”
Sources have signalled it is unlikely that the referendum will be held before the end of the year.
The Cabinet does not meet again until September 1 and the independent Referendum Commission must also sit for 12 weeks meaning a December date would be the earliest opportunity.
Mr Andrews said it would take a couple of months to organise a referendum but said a decision on a date has not yet been made.
He suggested it would be unlikely to be held along with the three by-elections or a Dublin Mayoral poll.
Among the issues being dealt with is continuity of care and the proper vetting of foster-care parents.
It is understood it is also feared that the reform may have implications for immigration policy as someone due to be deported could claim it is in their child’s interests that they remain in the country.
There are also concerns that if a child is suspended from a school then legal action could be taken that would involve both sides having to secure lawyers.
“I don’t think that was what was intended,” Mr Andrews said.
“So what is important is to try to keep the political consensus that was achieved by the committee (Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children) while taking out any unintended consequences.”
Meanwhile Mr Andrews launched new standards for groups working with young people, guidelines to deal with homophobic bullying and a national training programme for volunteers involved in youth work.
The minister said there was a need to establish a single, professional minimum standard.
Diarmuid Kearney, Youth Work Ireland chief, said it was an historic day.
“It is about professionalising a sector that has been striving for that for many years,” Mr Kearney said.