In my view, this amendment is more about providing a route, via the courts, to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC or UN Convention), than providing relief for dysfunctional families, important though that is.
The UN Convention has already, apparently legally, been ratified by the Government, without reservation, in 1992. It was never put to the people.
The key word here is “rights”. When presented with the first test case, the court is likely to ask: “What rights are we talking about?” It could then be explained to the court that such rights are none other than those that are in the UN Convention, which had already been ratified by the Government. It can be argued that this is what the electorate had in mind on Nov 10.
In support of this view, it can be further stated that the explanatory booklet, issued by the Department of Children and received by voters just prior to the referendum, made favourable reference to the Convention. It would then be easy for the court to accept that the constitution, as amended, was in accordance with the UN Convention, or a specified part of it.
If I am correct in concluding that “the elephant in the room” is the UN Convention, parents should be aware that, according to a UN “expert”, speaking to an Irish Government delegation, the “innovative idea” of the Convention was that of “moving from protection and caring to assertion of children’s rights”.
This has huge implications not only for every parent (not just those who are deemed to fail), but also for every child. It would represent a reversal of existing law and practice. At present, children are entitled to the love and support of both parents, rather than rights which would be enforced by a court. In view of where I believe this amendment is leading, I will be voting no.