Government has betrayed idealism of children’s referendum – ACP leader

Government has betrayed idealism of children’s referendum – ACP leader John O'Connor

Ireland’s 2013 children’s rights referendum looks in hindsight like an exercise in “making ourselves feel good”, a leading priest has said.

Commenting on Dr Geoffrey Shannon’s audit of child protection procedures in An Garda Síochána, which revealed grave shortcomings in child protection across State agencies, Redemptorist Fr Gerry O’Connor, a member of the Association of Catholic Priests’ leadership team, said “We had a referendum in support of children’s rights, but the Government has not resourced all of the idealism of that referendum.”

Fr O’Connor pointed to how the report showed a lack of personnel, resources, and political will with regard to child protection, and told The Irish Catholic, “It looks now as though it was an exercise in making ourselves feel good without trying to turn the obligations of the referendum into a practical lived experience for children.”


Dr Shannon’s report, covering 2014 and 2015, criticised inter-agency cooperation as “overwhelmingly inadequate” and described as “scandalous” the refusal of private foster care services to organise placements for children with addictions or challenging behaviour.

The report noted how Gardaí told Dr Shannon that the child and family agency Tusla does not provide feedback or updates to them following the handover of the child’s care, describing this as “personally and professionally frustrating” for gardaí who had removed vulnerable children from their parents. It also described gardaí as highly critical of how out-of-hours social care services are often under-resourced, where they exist at all.


While the report found that in the vast majority of cases, vulnerable children were only removed from their parents under Section 12 of the Child Care Act after careful consideration, it also found numerous gaps, flaws and variations in how gardaí recorded such instances of removal.

If any Church body had been as negligent as the State has been in recent years in its care for vulnerable children, Twitter would be “in overdrive calling for jailing”, Fr O’Connor said.

“Those who are normally very critical of deficiencies in the care of children and vulnerable people are silent,” he said, continuing of those who are often disparaging of voluntary, charitable, and faith-based initiatives, “They’re slow to criticise the State because they propose the State as the solution to all problems and the source of all good.”