THERE HAVE BEEN renewed calls for Ireland to follow the lead of other countries and make corporal punishment of children completely illegal.
Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe which has not yet banned corporal punishment in the home, along with countries such as Armenia, Estonia and Georgia.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has told the Dáil that Ireland has been found to breach the European Social Charter – which guarantees social and economic human rights – because of the lack of an explicit prohibition.
Children’s charity Barnardos has said the law needs to be changed to protect children from any form of physical violence.
“We believe that the law is important in reflecting the values we hold as a society and our attitudes towards children,” a spokesperson told TheJournal.ie.
Despite increased efforts in recent years by the State to rectify past mistakes when it comes to children, a loophole in the law means that corporal punishment in the home is not outlawed in Ireland.
Corporal punishment, in which an adult deliberately inflict pain as a punishment for wrongdoing, was banned in Ireland’s schools in 1982 by the Minister for Education and prohibited créches, public care settings and other places under the Children Act of 2001. It became a criminal offence in 1996 – but it is still not explicitly banned in the home.
The United Nations and other organisations which protect children have repeatedly called on Ireland to change its laws to punish parents who hurt their children.
A spokesperson for Barnardos said that the law should be changed to protect children from any form of physical violence, saying:
While we understand the frustration that parents face when dealing with difficult behaviour,we believe that other discipline approaches, such as ‘time out’, being grounded, or withdrawal of favourite toys or activities promote positive parenting while teaching children boundaries and respect for themselves and others.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has told the Dáil that Ireland does not have any laws which specifically allow corporal punishment in the home, but the problem is that it is not clearly banned.
A limited defence of reasonable chastisement exists under Irish law – but the Minister noted that the State has taken a number of high profile prosecutions against parents who used excessive or unreasonable force against children.
In a response to Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, the Minister told the Dáil:
There is a balance to be found between supporting parents in effective parenting, in particular, in use of non-violent forms of discipline, and the use of criminal law to impose criminal sanctions on parents who do not adhere to best practice in parenting
Research by the Department of Children has found that corporal punishment in the home is now relatively rare in Ireland.