The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has set out its concerns in a detailed submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The CRC monitors implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The UN committee will meet the IHRC later this month as part of its evaluation of the Irish Government’s second national report to the CRC.
The IHRC highlights a number of key issues in its submission:
The Government’s failure to properly enforce the UN convention.
“Regressive” legislation on juvenile justice.
High levels of child poverty.
The IHRC called on the Government to give legal effect to the UN convention, particularly in those areas where Irish law on children’s rights falls short of the convention.
The watchdog said existing provisions relating to the right to education, particularly for children with disabilities, received “insufficient protection”.
It said the Government should “as a matter of urgency” ratify separate UN protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
The IHRC said changes to the Children Act 2001 enshrined in the Criminal Justice Bill “run counter to international human rights standards”.
It strongly criticised plans to lower the age, from 12 to 10, at which children could be prosecuted for serious offences. It said the Children Act had prohibited anyone under the age of 12 from being charged with a criminal offence.
The watchdog said the bill contained a number of “regressive measures” relating to the detention of children under 16 and the continuing use of St Patrick’s Institution which houses children with young adults.
The body said it was concerned about the treatment of children in garda stations and said it was concerned there was no independent inspection of stations where children are detained.
It called on the Ombudsman for Children to be given this power.
The IHRC said it had “deep misgivings” about the proposed anti-social behaviour orders and called for regular monitoring of their use by gardaí.
The body also highlighted “worrying aspects” of the situation regarding child poverty, pointing out that Ireland had one of the highest rates of relative child poverty in the EU.
It said the Government’s target to reduce consistent child poverty to less than 2% by 2007 was “far from being fulfilled”.
The IHRC also said that while Ireland had generous income support for families with children, it spent little on assisting such families to meet high childcare, education, healthcare and housing costs.