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UN body wants amplified voice-of-child in family law
Pic: Shutterstock

13 Feb 2023 / human rights Print

UN body wants amplified voice-of-child in family law

Law enforcement officials, the judiciary and prosecutors should get systematic training on children’s protection from discrimination, including hate speech and hate crime, according to a report by the UN Child Rights Committee (CRC).

The body has issued its findings on Ireland, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Mauritius, New Zealand, Oman and Sweden, after reviewing the seven States parties during its latest session last month.

The findings contain the committee's main concerns and recommendations on implementing the Child Rights Convention

Best interests

The best interests of the child principle should also be consistently applied in all legislative, administrative and judicial proceedings involving children, the report says.

Before decisions by courts affecting children are made, they should have the right to express their views and to have them taken into account, especially in all forms of family law proceedings, the report adds.

They should also be given adequate support to engage an expert to present their views at no cost to them or their family, the report says.

Lower voting age

The state must also act on its previous commitments to hold a referendum on
lowering the voting age to 16, the Geneva committee has instructed, and ensure that such a decision is supported by “active citizenship and human rights education and measures to prevent undue influence”.

The committee notes its “deep concern” about barriers in accessing birth registration and the restrictive legislative framework for obtaining Irish nationality.

It wants all children, without exception, to be registered at birth, including by simplifying documentation requirements for children of minority groups, asylum-seeking and migrant children, and children without a regular residence status.

The Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill should be simplified to reduce residency requirements for acquiring nationality, and legal barriers removed by excluding children from the application of the “good character” ground.

On 24 and 25 January 2023, Roderic O’Gorman (Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth) led a delegation for the hearing in Geneva.

The committee expressed admiration for how Ireland had received children fleeing Ukraine.

They welcomed progress on the Children First Act, Children and Family Relationships Act and the Irish Sign Language Act.

Long waiting lists

However, concern was expressed about the long waiting lists for children seeking mental health services and the detrimental impact of racism and discrimination.

It asked the Government to ensure the availability of therapeutic mental health services for children and develop a designated mental health support service for children of minority ethnic groups, especially those who have experienced racial discrimination.

The committee recommended that Ireland strengthen its policies to ensure all children have an adequate standard of living and address the root causes of homelessness among children.

The State was also asked to assess the impact of the habitual residence condition on children, including Traveller and Roma children and children of African descent, and amend social welfare payments accordingly.

The committee also wants enhanced children’s rights in accordance with the Convention and Optional Protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

It recommends that the State fully incorporate the Convention into national legislation; conduct a comprehensive review of all its legislation to align it with the Convention and address any inconsistencies; and develop systematic child-rights impact assessment procedures for legislation and policies relevant to children.

Budget for children

Specific budget lines for all children, including in the national recovery and resilience plan, should also be developed for children, paying special attention to those in disadvantaged situations.

The Committee recommends that the upcoming National Equality Strategy includes collection of comprehensive data on children’s rights, disaggregated by age, sex, disability, geographical location, ethnic origin, nationality and socio-economic background.

It also wants the Ombudsman for Children’s Office to get more funding.

Child's right to complain

The committee also calls for “awareness-raising” for children about their right to file complaints under existing mechanisms, and a child rights-based approach by all professionals working for, and with, children.

The business sector should assess and make full public disclosure of the environmental, health-related and children’s rights-impacts of all their business activities, the committee says.

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