Children's Minister James Reilly has been facing tough questions from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva.
The Children's Rights Alliance says it is disappointed that children living in Direct Provision will not come under the remit of the Children's Ombudsman, but it is welcoming the commitment to closing the loophole on 16- and 17-year-olds getting married.
“The UN Committee has really got to grips with the key issues for children in Ireland,” said Children's Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward, who is attending the hearing.
“In the area of Direct Provision for asylum seekers, for example, they’ve zoned in on the fact that there is no independent inspections of Direct Provision centres around the country.
“And they also zoned in on the fact that children in Direct Provision are not permitted to complain directly to the Ombudsman for Children.”
The lack of pluralism in schools has also arisen, with committee members asking delegates about access to non-denominational education.
Minister Reilly admitted that progress has been slow in this area.
“The means of achieving pluralism in school choice is through a process of divestment of existing school patronage, and this, I have to admit, a slow process,” he said.
“But the Minister for Education and Skills has recently emphasised the importance of accelerating the process in that regard.”
The Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its concern at the ability, on application to the courts, of 16- and 17-year-olds to get married.
Deaglain O'Brian from the Department of Justice said that the issue will be addressed very soon.
“The Government have decided that that exception should be abolished, and that will be done as soon as a suitable legislative vehicle is in place, some time in the course of this year,” he said.
Tanya Ward welcomed the development, saying: "“At the moment, 16- and 17-year-olds can get married.
“From a child protection point of view, and a developmental point of view, that’s not good for children and young people.”
This afternoon, Minister Reilly and colleagues will answer further questions on child homelessness, abortion and obesity.