Anti-smacking group under fire from Government

The Government has accused an anti-smacking campaign group of misinformation and a lack of balance in its bid to have the practice banned in Ireland.

Officials have accused the Association for the Protection of All Children (Approach) of using Irish law and experience out of context after they claimed legislation permits parents, foster carers and guardians to hit a child.

The Department of Health and Children accepted the law includes a right to punish children physically under reasonable chastisement but warned that people are regularly prosecuted for causing unnecessary suffering.

“There is a balance to be found between supporting parents in effective parenting, in particular, in use of non-violent forms of discipline, and the use of criminal law to impose criminal sanctions on parents who do not adhere to best practice in parenting,” the department said.

“It is important to note that the general development of norms within Ireland and positive support and encouragement to parents has brought about a situation where physical punishment is increasingly avoided.”

The department was responding to a complaint by Approach to the European Committee of Social Rights as part of its campaign to outlaw smacking.

It went on to say foster carers sign contracts not to smack and that pre-school child carers are under regulations not to smack.

The United Nations has also called for a ban.

The department said statistics back up the argument that considerable progress is being made in eliminating virtually all forms of violence against children in Ireland and in encouraging parents to use alternative non-violent forms of discipline in the family setting.

The Approach complaint is the latest in a long line of international complaints against Ireland and follows recommendations by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Fifth Report of the Rapporteur on Child Protection that corporal punishment be banned in Ireland.

Children’s charities including the Children’s Rights Alliance are preparing to join forces to increase pressure on the Government.

The European body will decide on the complaint after a court in Dublin rules on the constitutionality of the children’s referendum.

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