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The last legal defence for slapping children is set to be removed

A new poll finds most people do not favour an all-out ban on parents smacking their children.
Oct 21st 2015, 3:05 PM 19,565 72

Updated 7.50pm

MOST PEOPLE BELIEVE parents should be allowed to slap their children, according to a new poll.

The latest Claire Byrne Live/Amárach Research poll, in conjunction with, has found that 52% of people think parents should not be banned from slapping their children.

The poll finding comes as the government prepared to remove the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ from legislation. The defence applies to both parents and childminders.

While the law which allowed parents to use force against their children was repealed 15 years ago, the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ remained. Its removal from legislation would effectively ban parents from smacking their children.

Earlier this year, a ruling from the Council of Europe found that young people’s rights were being violated by the lack of a clear ban on smacking children. This prompted a government review.

The poll finds that a third of people, 33%, favour the all-out ban on parents smacking  their children while 15% don’t know.

The majority of males and females do not favour a ban, while across all age groups there is also majority support for no ban on smacking, except in the 45 to 54 age category where 48% do not favour a ban, 36% do favour a ban and 16% don’t know.

In Dublin, 40% of people think parents should be banned from smacking their children in contrast to just 27% in the rest of Leinster.


Dr Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children welcomed the decision by the Minister for The Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly, to introduce an amendment to the Children First Bill removing the last remaining defence to slapping a child.

He also congratulated Senator Jillian Van Turnhout “for her steadfast support for the amendment and championing the abolishment of the defence of reasonable chastisement through the Seanad”.

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The Ombudsman said this news “at long last places Ireland on an equal footing with the vast majority of European Member States”.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos, said that Barnardos “has long campaigned for the Children First Guidelines to be put on a statutory footing”.

The passing of the Bill gives a very clear message that child protection is an absolute priority for us all and we will not tolerate anything which compromises this.

But she said that in order for the Children First Bill to be truly effective, the law must be accompanied by information and guidelines to ensure compliance.

There also needs to be a consideration of Tusla’s ability to respond to the likely increase in child welfare and protection referrals bearing in mind their already precarious budgeting situation.

Jennifer Gargan, Director of EPIC, said the step forward is “positive”. She added:

We would like to see this Bill address the fact that there is no right to appeal the needs assessment for the aftercare plan carried out by Tusla, and we would like to see specific mention of the need for aftercare preparation to begin years before a young person turns 18. EPIC will continue to advocate for further changes in legislation.

Poll: Should the government ban parents from smacking their children?

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Hugh O'Connell


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