Defending our right to protect our children

This referendum is not about protecting children. That is a smokescreen to blind us to the real agenda, says Richard Greene

Many people still have little idea what they are being asked to vote on this Saturday. That is no accident. It is part of the strategy of the Government and the media, particularly RTÉ, to keep voters ignorant about the real issues. They are afraid that if voters, especially parents and grandparents, knew what is really at issue here, they would be outraged by it.

First, we have to grasp that this referendum is not about protecting vulnerable children. That is really a smokescreen to blind voters to the real agenda.

Section 2 of the amendment says that a child may be placed for adoption wherever parents have “failed in their duty”. But section 3 allows for parents to place any child or teenager for adoption. In other words, all parents are free to decide whether they will rear their child themselves or hand it over to the State. This is a staggering statement.

It means the State no longer thinks that parents have a natural or God-given duty to care for and rear their children. They may choose to do so, but that is a lifestyle choice, not a natural duty. But if parents have no natural duty to rear their child, they have no natural right to rear their child. Duties come first, then rights.

If, however, they opt to rear their child, the State will give them a limited set of rights. But the rights given by the State can be reduced or abolished by the State. This section alone is enough to smash parents’ natural rights. Nobody needs to be a genius to see that.

Now back to section 1. It says the State will “protect and vindicate” the rights of all children. No mention here of helping parents to protect their children’s rights. The State, not parents, will do it. Look at the words again. Teenagers, especially, will be given a cart-load of rights. But we are not told what specific rights are being given to them. Again, this is deliberate. Because there is no way parents would vote for this amendment if they were told.

Some of these so-called rights may even be used against parents. They are freedoms that trump the wisdom and experience of parents and they undermine parents’ rights and ability to protect their children. Basically, they aim to allow teenagers to do whatever they wish, with the parents’ authority to intervene limited to what the State permits. In fact, the Government’s real aim is to open the way for the State to bring in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 16 of the Convention says that the law must rule out “arbitrary interference” with a child’s “privacy”. At a time when we are so conscious of children being bullied, this removes parents from the “private” world of their children and bans them from a key role of parents, to monitor, protect, and guide their children. Article 15 insists on a child’s “freedom of association”. Teenagers are told they have a right to associate with anyone they choose, however strongly their parents may disapprove. !

Article 13 gives children the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers… through any other media of the child’s choice”.

This is quite staggering, virtually a charter for child predators to exploit innocent and immature children. Now look at section 2, part 1 of the amendment. It says that if any parents, married or single, “fail in their duty towards their children” to such an extent that the welfare of the children “is likely to be prejudicially affected”, the State can step in. What do these terms — “fail in their duty”; “welfare”; “likely”; “prejudicially affected” — mean?

Together, they give social workers the right to walk into almost any home in the country and perhaps take the children into care. Indeed, it puts pressure on social workers and judges to intervene or to take a child, in order to protect their own skins. Never before in history have parents willingly given the State so much power over their own children. Parents, grandparents, young people who hope to become parents one day, all should vote no. They must defend their right to protect their own children.

* Richard Greene is leader of the Christian Solidarity Party

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