Committee may repeal new child protection legislation

THE Oireachtas Committee which will examine if the Constitution should be changed following the Supreme Court decision on statutory rape may repeal the emergency laws on child abuse introduced last month.

The seven-member committee was formally established in the Dáil yesterday to address the crisis caused by the “CC” case.

It will be chaired by Peter Power, the Fianna Fáil TD from Limerick West.

Two ministers, Justice Minister Michael McDowell and Minister for Children Brian Lenihan will be ex officio members of the committee with full voting rights.

Both Mr McDowell and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern have criticised the Government’s own month-old legislation on the grounds that children under the age of 15 can now face cross-examination as to their dress, their appearance, and the way they comported themselves.

The committee’s terms of reference will require it to address the age of consent issue and all procedures relating to children giving evidence in abuse cases. It will also examine the implications of the CC Supreme Court decision.

The committee holds its first meeting next week. It will report to the Oireachtas at the end of November.

If it recommends that the Constitution should be changed, a referendum is likely early next year.

The other committee members are independent Clare TD James Breen; Fianna Fáil deputies, John Curran and MJ Nolan; Fine Gael’s Olwyn Enright and Jim O’Keeffe and Brendan Howlin of the Labour Party.

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