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'Despite our best efforts, 1 in 12 children still live in poverty'

Homeless children, suicide rates and Direct Provision should all be discussed in Geneva today.

Image: Shutterstock/rodimov

Updated at 6.05pm

IRELAND’S CHILDREN’S RIGHTS record was examined today by a UN body for the first time in almost 10 years.

Children and Youth Affairs Minister James Reilly is leading the Irish delegation in Geneva today, where the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will scrutinise the State’s record on children’s rights.

The Ombudsman for Children and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will also be present. As will 15 senior officials from key government departments.

In the years since the last meeting with the committee (in 2006), Ireland has developed the position of Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and has set up Tusla, a dedicated agency for children and families.

However, a sharp increase in the number of homeless children in Ireland in the last year, as well as the fact that one child out of every nine is living in consistent poverty, is sure to be discussed at the meeting today.

In his opening remarks, which didn’t include much details relating to Direct Provision or suicide, Minister Reilly contradicted this figure.

“The Irish government acknowledges that experience since 2006 presents a mixed picture,” he said. “Challenges continue to unfold from, or have been exacerbated by, the crisis that enveloped us.”

“Key amongst these is a marked growth in the rate of child poverty.

Despite our efforts to  redirect supports to protect the most vulnerable children and families, the fact is that in 2014, one in 12 children in Ireland lived in consistent poverty. This is a cause of considerable concern to the Irish government.

He said that in an attempt to tackle this a child-specific poverty target had been introduced in the national policy framework for children Better Outcomes, Bright Futures.

He added that homelessness still remains “a major challenge”.

“It is a very complex problem, and  one  government  takes very seriously, as reflected in a multi-faceted policy response, with prioritised resource allocation.

“I can assure the Committee that the  Irish government will continue to create and  deploy innovative approaches so that every child and their family has a place to call home.”

“Day of reckoning”

Speaking ahead of the meeting today, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said that the purpose of the meeting was to examine why some children in Ireland aren’t being properly taken care of.

“Today is the day of reckoning,” she said.

The UN committee’s job is to shine a torch on Ireland to see why some children don’t reach their full potential.

The Children’s Rights Alliance is part of a delegation of over 20 NGOs who have travelled to Geneva the view the proceedings.

Ward said that child homelessness, the rights of children from the traveller and Roma communities and Ireland’s high child suicide rates should all be examined by the committee.

Ireland has highest EU rate of youth suicide amongst girls and the second highest rate amongst boys.

While Ward welcomed Ireland’s progress since the last meeting, she said that the rights of children are still not being fully protected in Ireland.

“For many children in Ireland, life is tough. The grim reality is that these children are being failed.”

Originally published at 7.15am

Read: When Ireland can’t help, here’s where children can turn to

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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