Query if asylum children covered in referendum

The Irish Refugee Council has said it is awaiting legal advice as to whether children in the asylum system are included under the wording of the upcoming referendum on children’s rights.

While there has been broad support for the wording unveiled by the Government this week, aspects of the wording have been queried, with some organisations and campaigners believing that certain sections are too vague.

Campaigner Mark Vincent Healy, who was abused by Spiritan priest Fr Henry Moloney while at St Mary’s College in Rathmines, said he was “more than a little concerned” about certain aspects of the wording, including the proposed Article 42A1:1.

He said it was “vague concerning the actual rights accorded to children to whom the laws of the State provide protection and vindication”.

While it is understood that courts will define these rights along the lines of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Mr Healy said: “I would like to have seen explicit rights accorded children in the Irish State though this constitutional change.”

He said he was unsure of entrusting the defining of any new constitutional rights to the judiciary, which, he claimed, had “not exactly been the friend of Irish children”.

Sue Conlon of the Irish Refugee Council said she hoped the wording would afford rights to children living in direct provision, but that at present it was uncertain if that was the case.

Ms Conlon said phrases like “as far as practicable” might mean children in direct provision may not fall under all the elements of any new laws were the referendum to be passed.

“We would welcome any inclusion of these children,” said Ms Conlon, adding that, regardless of their status in direct provision, “they are the State’s responsibility”.

Meanwhile, the directors of the Aislinn Centre, Christine Buckley and Carmel McDonnell Byrne, welcomed the proposed amendment, as did Jennifer Gargan, director of Empowering People in Care.

The Youth Advocate Programme also added its support to the wording for the referendum, which will be held on Nov 10.

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