Children's rights groups welcome referendum result

Tanya Ward and Fergus Finlay

Amending Ireland's constitution to protect children's rights is the first step in moving away from the past failures of the nation, leading charities have claimed.

Children's Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said while the 58% referendum vote in favour of the reforms was cause to celebrate, much work still needs to be done.

"The real work now begins to put in place the legislation and policies to build better child protection and children's rights services for Ireland's children," said Ms Ward.

She said this had already begun with the Child and Family Support Agency, which will come into force in 2013.

"(The passing of this referendum) provides great hope that Ireland can finally put the legacy of the past behind us and move towards a better future for all our children," she added.

The alliance was just one of a number of leading charities and children's rights activists that spearheaded the Yes campaign.

Retired Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, who was the first to call for a children's rights referendum following the notorious Kilkenny incest case in 1993, campaigned alongside the alliance under the umbrella group Yes for Children.

Barnardos and the ISPCC also worked under the same banner.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said the positive vote would make an enormous difference to the lives of vulnerable youngsters across the country.

"It is a testament to the incredible solidarity that has underpinned the Yes campaign, that across all divides - political, social and geographic - the people of Ireland have said Yes for children," said Mr Finlay.

He joined ISPCC chief executive Ashley Balbirnie in describing today as historic.

Despite a relatively low voter turnout of 34%, Mr Balbirnie insisted the public had engaged well with the campaign.

"We have been so impressed by the willingness of the Irish people to engage with the issues, and we are delighted with the outcome," he added.

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