Feature

Ireland: Apathy over the rights of children

Why did only one out of three Irish voters cast a ballot on the constitutional amendment to protect children’s rights?

Andrew MaddenIrish Independent

What do the Irish have against children? asked Andrew Madden. For the past two decades, report after report has exposed in damning detail how thousands of children were abused—beaten, molested, raped, tortured—in church and state institutions in this country. Yet “after all we have learned about our appalling failure to protect and listen to children,” only one out of three Irish voters “found the five minutes it would have taken” to cast a ballot on the constitutional amendment to protect children’s rights. The amendment—which requires that children’s testimony be heard in cases that affect them and that allegations of abuse be independently investigated—did pass, by 58 percent to 42 percent. Ireland’s institutions, at least, have begun to change: No longer does the Catholic Church have near-absolute authority over most public education and public health services for children, and the government has ended its “unquestioning deference to the church, which facilitated much neglect and abuse of children.” But what of the people? The “shamefully low turnout” to pass the constitutional amendment shows that when it comes to suffering children, there are “many people in this country who are still all too happy to turn a blind eye.”

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