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Nicole Jones (7) from St Audeons National School at the launch of earlier this month. Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Kenny: As Taoiseach and as a father I’m asking people to vote yes

Fine Gael today launched their yes campaign for the children’s rights referendum in Dublin, which is set to take place on 10 November.

FINE GAEL HAVE today launched their Children’s Referendum campaign, ahead of the vote on Saturday 10 November.

The director of elections for Fine Gael, Leo Varadkar, had last week said that the party would spend €150,000 in support of a yes vote.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny urged people to “go to the polls and make history.”

As Taoiseach and as a father I’m asking people to do exactly that; to come out in force and vote Yes. This Referendum is about giving children a chance; a second chance.

Also speaking at the launch was the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD who said:

We have come through two decades of shocking revelations about children – their physical and sexual abuse and neglect, failures of church and State and legal confusion as to the importance to be attached to child welfare when serious issues arise over a child’s future or children at risk.

Making reference to the Status of Children Act 1987, Shatter said that despite its enactment, “we have continued to constitutionally distinguish between children born within and outside marriage.”

In our care system we have over 2,000 children in long term foster care (that is, for in excess of 5 years) many with no real prospect of being properly cared for in the future by their biological parents or a parent and our Constitution denies to them the opportunity to be adopted and experience a legally secure family life.
We have seen varied judicial approaches in our courts to the issue of children’s rights and the weight to be attached to such rights and to a child’s welfare when crucial decisions are being made about a child’s future.

The amendment, should it succeed, will be the 31st to the constitution and will, according to Shatter, afford “express constitutional recognition to children’s rights.”

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, said that the referendum was about “protecting children from abuse and neglect”.

Ultimately it’s about Children; because Every Child Matters. Saturday is very busy day for many. But I hope as a nation we will all find time to cast our vote in this Referendum and I would call on all in our Party to help get the vote out on Saturday 10th November.

One attendee, Wayne Dignam, who is a board member of the Irish Foster Care Association, grew up in state care. He also believes in voting yes.

I was born into a difficult family situation as my parents could not look after me. Due to exceptional circumstances, I was first taken into State care when I was three. By the time I was eight I had lived in various foster homes and residential homes.
In spite being in need of protection from the State, I was continually brought back to my family to unsafe and difficult circumstances, because the law said that I had fewer rights than my parents.
The law presumed my best interests were always within my family, despite the very clear evidence to the contrary. For too long, various strands of society have turned a blind eye to this issue.

Read: Experts weigh in on Children’s Referendum >

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