Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Children Charlie McConalogue has welcomed the commitment from Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald that a stand-alone Referendum on Children’s Rights will be held this year.

Deputy McConalogue said: “It is a relief that Minister Fitzgerald has finally made a clear commitment that there will be a stand-alone Referendum on Children’s Rights in 2012.  There has been considerable disappointment at her Government’s failure to deliver on their election promise to hold the Referendum last year. 

“It is important that this is a stand-alone ballot to ensure that it gets the focus and attention it deserves.  We saw last October how the Government failed dismally in communicating to the public the issues involved in the two Referendums that were held alongside the Presidential election.  The issue of enshrining the rights of the child in our Constitution is far too important to fall victim to a similar lapse in focus and failure of communication.

“It is essential that the Government devotes the time and energy necessary to make this important Constitutional change a reality. Children in this country have waited long enough for this.  The Minister must now consult closely with opposition parties and the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children to ensure that all-party consensus can be achieved on the referendum.

“I am also calling on Minister Fitzgerald to consider putting the Referendum in two questions dealing separately with the Constitutional changes needed to remove the barriers to adoption for children of married parents, and the changes needed to enhance the voice of the child in the Constitution. This will ensure that the issues at stake are clearly communicated to the electorate.

Deputy McConalogue concluded, “I welcome Minister Fitzgerald’s comments today and I intend to hold her to her promise that the Referendum will be held on its own this year.”