ChildLinks Issue 1: Children's Participation

Barnardos. (2005). ChildLinks Issue 1: Children's Participation.
This issue of ChildLinks is devoted to the theme of children’s participation. The concept of children’s participation is firmly accepted in the minds of practitioners and policy-makers alike. Hopefully the sharing of insights into the theory and practice of children’s participation will be of use to ChildLinks readers and I want to thank all our contributors for sharing their learning and experience on this important issue. Children’s participation is closely related to the issue of children’s rights which at a macro level is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Ireland ratified the 1989 UNCRC without reservation in 1992 but what many people do not realise is that the UNCRCC has not yet been implemented into Irish legislation. Recently the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution called for submissions on the question of children’s rights. Barnardos’ submission focused on the need for the Constitution to be amended to include an article which expressly guarantees and secures the protection of children’s rights and which reflects the terms of the UNCRC. As far back as 1993, the report of the Kilkenny Incest Investigation stated that “the Constitution should contain a specific and overt declaration to the rights of born children.” Subsequently in 1996 the Constitution Review Group urged that children be given new explicit rights and that the Constitution should expressly require that in law the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration. This is particularly important to ensure that vulnerable children are fully protected. Barnardos works with a number of extremely vulnerable children from a very young age through to their teens who are suffering distress and anxiety because of precarious situations they have been placed in.The Irish Constitution fails to recognise the child as an individual in their own right and child welfare and child protection can be compromised as a result. A change in the Constitution would help to change the culture and practice in child protection cases and ensure the best protection for extremely vulnerable children. Barnardos also recommends that the terms of the UNCRC, should be strongly reflected in the Constitution. Article 3.1 of the Convention states that in "in all actions concerning children…the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." It is encouraging to note that the submission to the Oireachtas Committee from the Ombudsman for Children as well as many NGOs involved in working with children and in the family law arena were in agreement in regard to this area of constitutional reform. Children’s needs and children’s rights must be made paramount. The importance of this constitutional review and the opportunity to effect positive change in the lives of children cannot be over estimated.The Oireachtas and the Government must take action to safeguard children’s rights.