Written Answers. - Children's Rights.

Bernard Allen

Question:

295 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to introduce a children's rights Bill which would impose a legal obligation on the State to provide facilities which would protect children's rights. [7689/01]

The area of children's rights is a complex one. Both historically and constitutionally, the family has been the unit of society which received special protection, and children's rights have been taken into account within this unit. The Constitution Review Group in its report published in 1996 made a number of recommendations in this area. The all-party committee on the Constitution is currently considering the report of the Constitution Review Group and this committee has been requested, on behalf of the Government, to prioritise its consideration of the issue of the constitutional underpinning of individual children's rights.

Nonetheless, there have been substantial developments in the area of strengthening children's rights in Ireland in recent years. One of the most significant developments was the launch last year of the Government's national children's strategy. The national children's strategy is the single biggest initiative during the 1990s to further progress the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Ireland ratified in 1992. The goals and objectives set out in the national children's strategy have been set in the context of supporting the implementation of children's rights. Under the strategy, it is proposed to establish an office of ombudsman for children as an independent office. The ombudsman for children will,inter alia, be responsible for promoting the welfare and rights of children generally and advising the Government on issues of importance to children.
There have also been important legislative developments in Ireland, which strengthen and protect children's rights in key areas. The most notable have been the Status of Children Act, 1987, the Child Care Act, 1991, the Children Act, 1997, and the Children Bill, 1999, which is currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
In the light of the above, and pending the outcome of the all-party committee's deliberations, I have no plans to introduce a children's rights Bill.

Bernard Allen

Question:

296 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans he has to hold a referendum to guarantee the specific rights of children who have been identified in High Court rulings as being at risk at the same time as the referendum on the Treaty of Nice. [7816/01]

The High Court has already identified the rights of children at risk as being based on the Constitution in Mr Justice Geoghegan's 1995 judgment in the FN case. Accordingly, I am not convinced that there is a need for a specific amendment of the Constitution in this regard.

The all-party committee on the Constitution is considering the report of the Constitution Review Group and this committee has been requested, on behalf of the Government, to prioritise its consideration of the issue of the constitutional underpinning of individual children's rights.