A senior academic today unveiled a six-point plan to better promote the rights of the child in society.
A study carried out by Cork law lecturer Dr Ursula Kilkelly found that Ireland still did not recognise children as rights holders with a say in their own lives.
Among her proposals she called for greater legal protection for children, better investment in services and greater awareness and promotion of the rights of the child among the public.
The research was commissioned by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) and the conclusions are expected to influence its work in the coming years.
“It is apparent that the necessary shift away from the paternalistic approach, whereby adults know best, to the recognition that children are rights-holders, with a right to have a say in their lives, has yet to take place fully both in Government and in society,” she said.
Dr Kilkelly, who lectures in law at University College Cork, said Ireland must put in place better social support mechanisms to safeguard children’s rights, explicitly protect the rights of the child in the Constitution and establish bodies to enforce that protection.
She also advocated substantial investment in health, education and leisure services and called for greater awareness and promotion about children’s rights both politically and among the public.
She singled out children from the Travelling community, immigrant and asylum seekers, as well as homeless and children living in poverty, in care and in the criminal justice system as those whose rights are being restricted.
“This research makes clear that while some children are particularly vulnerable, the obstacles that frustrate the effective protection of their rights affect all children,” Dr Kilkelly said.
“In particular, despite many positive initiatives, Ireland lacks the children’s rights infrastructure necessary to underpin effective protection of children’s rights for this and future generations, and to ensure that their childhood is happy and safe.”
The research will form the basis for the Big Ballot, Ireland’s first ever children’s referendum-style event, where youngsters up to 18 will be asked to tell children’s ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, what areas they would like her to work on.
Around 1000 schools nationwide are so far signed up to the scheme, with voting expected to take place on the week of November 5 and results revealed by the Ombudsman’s office on November 20.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is mandated to promote the rights and welfare of children and young people up to 18 living in Ireland.