Belfast Telegraph

Martin backs children referendum

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has given his backing to radically reformed children's rights in the upcoming referendum.

But at a mass to mark the new law term, the senior Catholic cleric said he did not believe the modernisation was a magic formula to protect children. The archbishop also condemned the upsurge in violent deaths in the last week after two men were murdered while with their children.

"On a personal level, I believe that proposed wording for the upcoming children's referendum is one which has attempted to address the rights and obligations of the various interested groups in a balanced way, while giving a new focus on the centrality of the child's interests," the archbishop said. "My hope is that public debate on the referendum will reflect the same seriousness which has marked its realisation."

The archbishop is the most senior Catholic cleric to voice his support for the reform of children's rights. The Irish Bishops Conference said last week they would make a considered statement on the constitutional change in coming weeks.

Archbishop Martin gave his views at St Michan's Church in Dublin to members of the judiciary and legal world to mark the start of the Michaelmas Law Term.

He said: "Obviously a constitutional change will not be a magic formula which will resolve all the challenges for parents and children which sadly often emerge in our complex society, and with which those of you involved in the administration of justice are acutely aware.

"A change of culture will take a long time to be embedded within the various levels of society and public service. Indeed, what are we to say in a week when a text about the best interests of the child was promulgated and we find people being gunned down on our streets in the presence of their own children?

"A sense of public morality demands that voices are raised in a united and unambiguous way to express horror and rejection of the violence we have witnessed in this week. No economic or no political aim can be achieved through such violence. It is simply amoral."

Maeve Lewis, executive director of the One in Four support group, called on other bishops to back the referendum. She said: "Archbishop Martin has been a consistent advocate for the need to protect vulnerable children, and the child safeguarding structures in the Dublin Archdiocese set an example to both Church and State.

"His support for the referendum shows that he has absorbed the lessons of the Catholic sex abuse scandals and his commitment to a future where children will be safe. He is to be commended for his leadership in this matter. I would urge his fellow bishops to voice their support for the referendum immediately."

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