Belfast Telegraph

Groups back referendum to aid young

Ireland's most vulnerable children will be protected and cherished if people vote 'Yes' in the upcoming referendum, it was claimed.

Five leading organisations joined forces to back the yes campaign and call on the electorate to let youngsters' voices be heard on November 10.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout, who led the delegation involving Arc Adoption, Childminding Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Youth Foundation and Treoir, said the change will protect and support children.

"The question I have been asked most frequently about the referendum is whether I think strengthening children's rights in the constitution is really necessary," said the former chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance.

"My answer is an unequivocal 'Yes'. This is not a time for complacency. I believe by strengthening children's rights in the constitution we will protect and support children in Ireland."

Inclusion Ireland, which advocates for the intellectually disabled, said a 'Yes' vote will tell parents of children with disabilities that the people of Ireland support their children's right to support and services.

Meanwhile, the Irish Youth Foundation claim it will help its fight to support youngsters who, due to a wide range of social factors, are denied their most basic rights - the right to be supported by caring adults, the right to a way of life that is free of fear and discrimination, and the right to an education which meets all of their needs.

Shane Downer of Arc Adoption, an inter-country adoption mediation agency, added: "This referendum will allow us, as a society, to choose to protect and cherish our most vulnerable children. It's time to make a clear, strong statement that all our children matter, and that Ireland can be a great place to be a child."

Elsewhere, Labour's Aodhan O Riordain warned a low turn-out will be an insult to the generations of Irish children who suffered appalling abuse and were not heard.

"We have become used to a chorus of condemnation whenever a report is published detailing the suffering of children at the hands of those charged with their protection, or at the hands of those who were trusted and respected to care for them," he added. "All such condemnation will ring very hollow indeed if the majority of Irish people stay at home, rather than to have their voice heard on November 10."

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