‘Dark clouds’ over rights of children

The Children’s Rights Alliance has urged a UN committee which will review Ireland’s record on children to make recommendations, including urging a ban on corporal punishment and a review of the gardaí’s Pulse system.

‘Dark clouds’ over rights of children

Are We There Yet? is the Children’s Rights Alliance’s third and fourth combined Parallel Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. It comes ahead of the committee’s review of Ireland’s children’s rights record in January 2016 — the first such review in 10 years.

In the foreword to the report, the alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said much had changed for the better for children’s rights and welfare since 2006 but “sadly, some large and very dark clouds hang over this happy picture”.

Ms Ward referenced the tough lives of many Irish children, including those in the Traveller community and the 1,500 asylum-seeking children growing up in direct provision accommodation.

She also mentioned that Ireland has the highest EU rate of youth suicide among girls and the second highest rate among boys, and that Ireland ranks second of 194 countries for binge drinking of alcohol among those aged 15 and over.

Ms Ward also raised concerns at the number of children under detention and the backlog of more than 7,000 child protection cases and the 3,000 children on waiting lists for mental health support.

“This is very far from utopia,” she said, adding that another major issue was the soaring child poverty rate in Ireland. The report makes a number of recommendations to the UN Committee, such as urging it to recommend that the State takes immediate action to vindicate children’s constitutional rights, including enacting legislation to satisfy Article 42A provisions on the best interests of the child, views of the child, and adoption.

The report also calls on the UN Committee to call for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to be properly resourced so it can fulfill its legal obligations, alongside other recommendations.

According to the report: “The committee is urged to recommend that the State increases the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years for all criminal offences.”

It also said a legal framework was needed to facilitate a child’s right to consent to, or refuse treatment, in physical and mental health and social care settings.

The report also raised concerns over other legal issues, such as a child having no automatic entitlement to have their voice heard in family law proceedings affecting them, such as guardianship, custody and access decisions.

The report also calls for a ban on smacking children, while the alliance also wants the UN to urge the removal of the ability of publicly-funded schools to give preference to the children of past pupils.

Citing the revelation last year that the details of some children had been recorded on the Garda intelligence database (Pulse), the alliance said the UN should demand an independent review of the Pulse system. n Report at: www.childrensrights.ie

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