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26 January 2006 Edition

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Constitution conflicts with human rights obligations

Arthur Morgan

Arthur Morgan

Constitution Committee Report on the Family - Sinn Féin dissents

Sinn Féin member of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution Arthur Morgan TD this week recorded the party's dissent from the recommendations in the Committee's Report on the Family.

"Sinn Féin regrets that certain members of the committee allowed fears regarding a divisive referendum to prevent them supporting proposals to substantially amend the Constitution," Morgan said.

"The definition of the family in Article 41.3.2 serves to unnecessarily limit family rights and hampers the realisation of full equality rights. Because constitutional protection for families is only extended to heterosexual families, based on marriage, this permits discrimination against other family formations. Given the diversity of family formations which exist in the state today, this definition of family is clearly inadequate and discriminatory. Almost everybody knows somebody in relationships other than traditional marriage. The state must move to recognise the status of these relationships," he said.

"The balance between the rights of the family as a unit and the rights of individual members favours the family disproportionately, in a manner potentially in conflict with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The absence of an explicit recognition of the rights of the child, in a separate article, means that the Constitution is in direct conflict with human rights obligations entered into by the state," said Morgan.

Sinn Féin proposed the inclusion of a substantial new article on the rights of the child as follows:

1. The State guarantees to cherish all the children of the nation equally. All children, in addition to the individual rights guaranteed to all persons in this Constitution, are entitled to the special care and assistance essential to childhood. Each child has the right to reach his or her potential as an individual and as a member of the community.

2. The State shall ensure, as far as is possible, that every child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, shall grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

3. The State shall ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

4. Children have the right to be heard, to be consulted in all matters affecting them and to access information about their person.

5. In all actions concerning children undertaken by or on behalf of the State the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration.

Arthur Morgan said that the proposals contained in the report fall far short of the inclusion of such an article which Sinn Féin vehemently argued for during the committee's consideration of the issue.

"Overall Sinn Féin is very disappointed with the limited nature of the changes proposed in the tenth Progress Report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution" he said.


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