Constitutional Referendum: Announcement by Taoiseach

I wish to announce for the information of the House that the Government has finalised the wording of a constitutional amendment on the protection of children and has decided to hold a referendum on this important issue on Saturday, 10 November next.

On a point of order-----

I am not making a speech. It is only for information, Deputy. It is my intention, along with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs-----

On a point of order-----

-----to brief the leaders of the Opposition parties in advance of the publication of the wording of the proposed amendment tomorrow, and tomorrow the Minister will publish also the adoption (amendment) Bill, announce the establishment of a referendum commission and name its chairperson.

As was done with the European Stability Mechanism referendum earlier this year, the Government is committed to ensuring that the people have all the information they need to make an informed decision on 10 November and to that end there will be a well resourced referendum commission along with a comprehensive Government information campaign.

The protection of children is an issue that is of concern to us all. Numerous reports over many years have called for dedicated constitutional provisions for children. There has been very good cross-party co-operation on this issue over many years. I believe that the referendum proposals which will be announced tomorrow, along with the other reforms that are already under way to improve our child welfare and protection services, will be an historic step forward. I look forward to working with Members of the House and with civil society organisations over the coming months to ensure a positive outcome. I will brief the Opposition parties, publish the wording and the adoption Bill and name the referendum commission chairperson tomorrow.

I would make the point to the Taoiseach that this is very slack behaviour, frankly. He should have consulted with us today that this announcement was being made. There is no major difficulty about it. Our spokesman spoke to the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, last week. It is common courtesy and proper parliamentary procedure to involve the Opposition in announcements of this kind-----

(Interruptions).

-----and that we are alerted if announcements are going to be made by the Taoiseach on any issue, particularly on an issue pertaining to the amendment of the Constitution.

Which you never did.

That is proper procedure, and it is important that is adhered to in future because a tendency is developing where it is ruled by the Executive. This is an important issue. As the Taoiseach has outlined, it has involved all parties over quite some time. We want to adopt a constructive approach to the issue and I would have appreciated it if our spokespeople had been consulted earlier today in regard to this.

If Deputies wish to raise this issue on the Order of Business they may do so. We have questions to the Taoiseach before that which I would like to go on to now.

In response to Deputy Martin, the decision was only made at Cabinet today and finalised. I merely wanted to inform the House of the process of the briefing of party members - it is not the first time they have been briefed - and the procedure that will be followed.