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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 9 July, 2020

The Children's Referendum will not have to be held again

The referendum passed by 58% voting yes and 42% voting no.

Image: Shutterstock/Pavel L Photo and Video

THE SUPREME COURT has ruled that the Children’s Referendum should not be re-run.

A High Court petition taken by Joanna Jordan from Dun Laoghaire to overturn the result of the 2012 referendum was previously rejected.

It ruled the Government’s conduct – specifically using State monies to publish an unbalanced information campaign – did not impact on the outcome of the referendum.

Her appeal against this decision was unanimously dismissed by the seven-judge panel today.

The judgement outlined how the significant voting margin  (58% voted yes and 42% voted no) was a significant factor.

“Applying the test to the circumstances of these appeals, the Court finds it has not been established that it is reasonably possible that the actions of the Minister materially affected the outcome of the referendum as a whole,” the judges explain.

The High Court will now have to endorse the result of the referendum before the President can sign it into law. It is understood this could happen in the next seven days.

“It has been 895 days since the people voted and now the will of the people has firmly been heard. This is a great day for Children’s rights,” Senator Jillian VanTurnhout said after the ruling.

“Now all children in Ireland can be treated equally.”

Childrens Rights Referendums Campaigns Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald also welcomed today’s decision.

It is important that citizens have the opportunity to bring concerns to our courts as happened in this case,” she said in a statement. 

This is a new era for the how we as a society view our children. No longer seen and not heard, children are now recognised by our Constitution as individual rights holders deserving of protection by our laws irrespective of their family form.”

One of Jordan’s supporters in court, Kathy Sinnott, said that the court today had given “a green light to the government to cheat and lie”.

She claimed the referendum on children’s rights was really about the “privatisation of children and childhood” and “government control”.

PastedImage-25064 Mattie McGrath with Joanna Jordan and solicitor Kevin Brophy

Jordan said she was “very disappointed” and that she was “hoping” she would win.

“It is a sad day for Ireland.”

“Irish parents will be losing their natural power over their children.”

She also said she is hopeful that she won’t have to pay costs, a matter that was not decided today.

Fianna Fáil TD Mattie McGrath, a supporter of Jordan, said he hoped their would be recourse to Europe over the ruling.

What does this mean? 

VanTurnhout explained the ruling will impact on a range of  legislation that can now be moved forward, one being adoption.

The Children’s Rights Alliance said:

“For many hundreds of children in long term foster care today’s judgement opens the way for them to finally find a permanent and secure family through adoption by thier foster parents.”

However, Jordan maintains it will mean parents will no longer have to give consent in the adoption of their own children.


The turnout for the referendum in 2012 was low, but the majority of voters voted in favour of the referendum proposal.

Seven judges ruled on the case which was taken against the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the government and the Attorney General.

The case was based on the Supreme Court’s decision in 2012 to find the government’s information campaign unconstitutional because it was one-sided.

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