THE CHILDREN’S REFERENDUM has passed, with provisional results showing that the Yes vote was 58 per cent while the No vote was 42 per cent.
Of the 1,066,239 votes cast, 615,731 voted in favour of amending the wording of the Constitution which relates to children.
Reactions have begun pouring in, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny describing it as a “historic day for the children of Ireland”.
He thanked the Irish people for voting and also thanked the various organisations that campaigned for a Yes vote.
This Government has a deep commitment to families and children. The passing of this amendment will help make childhood a good, secure and loving space for all our children. It will also give hope, reassurance and confidence to parents, foster parents and vulnerable children.
Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore welcomed the result and thanked all who voted, as well as the campaign team, and the Director of Elections, Kathleen Lynch.
This is a historic referendum. The decision by the people to insert a dedicated article into the Constitution to protect the rights of children draws a line in the sand against the litany of past failures. Up to now the failure of those in positions of power to protect children has been a blight on our nation’s history. Today’s result is a vindication of the values that we hold and how much we value children and childhood.
He said that as a direct result of today’s result, child protection in this country will be strengthened.
Fellow Labour Party member Deputy Aodhán Ó Rìordán said he was “delighted with today’s result”. “There will be a lot of discussion about turnout and voting patterns but that shouldn’t deter us from what an achievement this referendum result is for children,” he said.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD said passing this Referendum “will have a number of very tangible, positive impacts” and will bring historic change in child protection.
Children must now be listened to in certain court proceedings, when crucial decisions are being made about their future. The child’s best interests will now be central to every decision taken on their behalf. This will create a child-centred focus in our courts and our child protection services.
She said that the Yes vote will also address inequalities in adoption.
Fine Gael’s Director of Elections for the Children’s Referendum, Minister Leo Varadkar TD, has welcomed the Yes vote. He said:
It is incumbent now on us as a Government to follow through on this historic decision by giving practical effect to the children’s amendment. This will include passing legislation to bring about equality in adoption law, enhancing child protection laws, the closure of St Patrick’s Institution, and the reform our family courts, among other measures.
Fianna Fáil has said today’s Yes vote is an important step towards improving the rights of children across the State. Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Robert Troy described the result as “an important moment for Ireland”.
However, he said that questions need to be asked about how the Government “brought controversy into what should have been the least contentious referendum in the history of the State”. Troy said he will be seeking answers from the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald “about her failure to ensure fairness and impartiality in the campaign”, and about the response of senior Cabinet Ministers to the Supreme Court ruling last week.
He also said that the Government must listen to the concerns of voters raised during the campaign.
I intend to hold Minister Fitzgerald and her Government to account for the promises they made in relation to supports and resources for vulnerable children, in particular tackling in the gaping holes in the social worker service and out-of-hours social care.
The umbrella group for the Yes campaign, which includes Barnardos, the ISPCC, the Children’s Rights Alliance and Campaign for Children, said the result is “a statement by the people of Ireland that children matter”.
[It] provides a mandate for better laws, policy and services to improve the protection of children now, and into the future
Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay described it as an “historic day for children in Ireland”.
Today, the Irish people have said they want to change the way we value and treat children in our society and in our laws. Today’s vote will make an enormous difference to children’s lives, especially Ireland’s most vulnerable children.
Alliance Chief Executive Tanya Ward echoed his sentiments, saying: “The people have spoken and we now have a mandate to strengthen our laws, policies and services for generations of children to come”.