I presented a copy of the third and final report of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children to Cabinet in early March. The Cabinet decided that, in view of the complex nature of the issues involved, all Ministers and Government Departments as well as the Attorney General should consider the report and examine the implications of the proposed wording for their individual areas of responsibility.
A range of unintended policy and resource implications were identified, including concerns that the concept of continuity of care might lead to children being left in inappropriate care situations. There were also concerns about implications for immigration policy as someone due to be deported could claim it is in their child's interests that they remain in the country and about the way in which the voice of the child provisions could lead to unwieldy and inappropriate arrangements; for example, where a child is being suspended from school it could result in legal representation being on both sides.
In view of these difficulties, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs presented to Government the policy objectives for the Referendum and was granted Government approval to develop revised wording for an amendment, in co-operation with the office of the Attorney General. New wording, which takes into account the proposals put forward by the Committee, is being drafted by the Attorney General's Office with policy support provided by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. It is hoped that a recommendation will be brought by the Minister to Cabinet soon. The matter is receiving full attention. Meetings have taken place between myself, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the Tánaiste, the Attorney General, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with a view to moving a proposal forward.