A DECISION by an Oireachtas committee on children’s rights to delay its final report by at least another six months has been branded as “shocking”.
On Tuesday, the cabinet approved a request by the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children to put off its final report until October.
It had agreed to publish by May and the delay makes the holding of any potential referendum on the rights of the child this year almost impossible.
The chief executive of children’s charity Barnardos, Fergus Finlay, said given the time it has taken for the committee to arrive at this point another delay was not justified.
“It is really shocking that this report has been delayed yet again. The committee began in 2007 and at least two years will have passed before we have concrete recommendations on the crucial issues of children’s rights and child protection.
“The system is clearly broken when even those reports that might shed light on how our systems can work better to respect and protect children fail to be prioritised by the Government,” he said.
Chair of the committee, Mary O’Rourke, said the decision was taken because there was still too much work to be done and it had to fulfil other obligations.
The committee met on Wednesday as it put the final touches to its second interim report, that will deal with the issue of the age of consent andstatutory rape.
Another meeting is scheduled for next week and Ms O’Rourke expects the second report to be published after Easter.
It will begin its work on the final section, looking at the rights of the child in the Constitution, afterwards.
She said given the distractions of the local and European elections and the summer break, the committee would not have been able to complete its work on time.
And she said the final leg of its work was most likely to be the most contentious, with unpopular decisions required regardless of the outcome.
Mr Finlay said recent events show the urgency that is needed to reform the law and it was not until the committee reported that something could be done.
“In the last year we have seen numerous, what can only be described as child protection scandals...
“It is clear to anyone concerned about children’s welfare that we need to take action quickly to ensure that child protection and children’s rights are given the fullest protection in Irish law,” he said.
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