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Corporal punishment to be outlawed in foster care - James Reilly

An EU ruling stating Irish laws on smacking children are in breach of European law was issued this morning following a formal complaint from a UK-based NGO.

Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

Updated 15.08

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IS to be abolished in foster and residential care according to Minister for Children James Reilly.

Speaking on RTE’s News at One, Reilly said that he has instructed his officials to “put in place regulations for not just foster care, but also residential care and care of the state” with regard to corporal punishment such as smacking.

“Those regulations will come in via statutory instruments under my own remit as Minister for Children,” Reilly said.

The news comes hard on the heels of an EU ruling stating that Irish laws on the subject of smacking children are in breach of European law.

reilly James Reilly Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall

When pressed on the issue, Reilly admitted that he would discuss with the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald the possibility of removing the defence of reasonable chastisement from Irish common law, i.e. the outright banning of smacking within the family.

Reasonable chastisement has already been removed as a defence for schools and teachers in cases of corporal punishment.

“It’s important to point out that there’s a whole raft of other legislation in place to protect children,” Reilly said.

There is no law allowing corporal punishment in the home. The Non Fatal Offences against the Person Act of 1997 and section 2.46 of the Children’s Act 2001 make cruelty to children illegal. It is also an offence to assault, mistreat or abandon a child.

The minister further stated that he doesn’t believe corporal punishment within the home is a problem any more, as it was more of an issue in ‘his day’.

“We don’t intend reaching into everyone’s home. Parents these days use other methods of raising their children and disciplining them,” he said.

Speaking on the subject today June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos, said Ireland has “rightly come under fire for not legislating for a full ban on all forms of corporal punishment of children, including smacking children at home”.

june_tinsley June Tinsley of Barnardos Source: june_tinsley/Twitter

There is a distinction between a slap and more severe forms of punishment but whatever the level of hitting all are a breach of children’s rights – including their right to physical integrity. It results in the child feeling hurt, sad and upset.
Corporal punishment is still legal in Ireland as parents can use the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’.
Our legal system doesn’t allow adults to be violent to each other so it makes no sense to allow a parent be violent to a child, especially as children are particularly vulnerable members of our society.

Earlier, it emerged that Irish laws regarding the smacking of children will be reviewed by the Government following the Council of Europe ruling that Ireland is in breach of European law on the subject.

The body found that Ireland’s laws on smacking children are in breach of the European Social Charter.

It says Ireland’s corporal punishment of children “is not prohibited in a sufficiently clear, binding and precise manner under Irish legislation or case-law”.

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Corporal punishment is currently outlawed in Irish schools, but parents can defend smacking their children in court.

The European Committee of Social Rights began investigating whether our legislation is in breach of the charter following a formal complaint from a UK-based NGO.

The Association for the Protection of All Children, APPROACH, alleged that Ireland was in violation of the European Social Charter concerning the corporal punishment of children.

The European Social Charter is a legally-binding social and economic counterpart to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Additional reporting by Cianan Brennan

Originally published at 08.33 am

Read: Poll: Do you think Ireland should ban the smacking of children?>

Read: Ireland could be next for rap on the knuckles over smacking children>

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