Thursday, 23 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
10. Ms Keogh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, in spite of its ratification by Ireland in 1992, progress on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has not been progress reported on as is required; and if he will ensure that this situation is addressed. [2003/95]
Mr. Spring: Ireland's first report on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was due in October 1994. My Department commenced work on the report in 1993. Its preparation has involved extensive co-ordination work with all Departments concerned in any way with the welfare of children. I understand that all 14 Government Departments and offices have been contacted and are preparing material. In recent months additional resources were allocated within my Department to drafting the report. I expect that it will be finalised and submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in coming months.
A consequence of the ratification of a number of UN human rights instruments in recent years is that the State  has undertaken a permanent and continuing obligation to submit, at regular intervals, comprehensive reports on the implementation of their provisions. It is my intention that the human rights unit, which is to be set up in my Department, will be given responsibility for ensuring that such reports are completed to a high standard and submitted on time.
Mr. O'Malley: Why has it taken so long to prepare this report, on which work began in 1993? Given the matters which have come to light in the fairly recent past in connection with the abuse of children and gross interference in their rights, will the Minister agree that there is an urgency about the report?
Mr. Spring: I will try to have the report completed within a matter of months. It is necessary that we make a report. The reports by some countries have been rejected because they were not comprehensive enough. I want to ensure that we have a comprehensive report. Fourteen Departments and offices have been contacted and I hope we will be in a position to submit a comprehensive report during the first half of the year.
Kathleen Lynch: Will the Minister agree that the difficulty arises because of the way in which we legislate? Up to now we seem to have legislated for individuals within a certain framework and we need to change the way in which we legislate for them. If we do not deal with this issue then we will continue to be faced with such problems.
Mr. Spring: I am not sure I get the drift of the Deputy's views on the way we legislate. We have been working on the report for more than 12 months and the delay is due to the wide consultation required and the collation of material from 14 Departments and offices. Obviously subscribing to conventions increases one's requirements. The convention covers many issues, for example, non-discrimination, interests  of children vis-à-vis social welfare institutions, courts of law, care and protection facilities, standards, law and administration measures, legal administration and the responsibilites, rights and duties of parents and guardians. I do not want to submit a report which has not been fully thought out and not comprehensive.Some of the reports have been rejected because they were not prepared adequately. Seventy countries have yet to submit reports but I hope we can overcome this problem.
Mr. R. Burke: The Minister referred to the measure dealing with the care and protection of children. In light of recent cases this issue should be given high priority. The Minister should delegate this task to one of his many Ministers of State and instead of presenting the report in the middle of the year, it should be presented as a matter of urgency.
Mr. Spring: People have far more time now to work on it; this was not the case up to a few months ago. The Deputy has suggested that one of my ministerial colleagues should be given extra work; I am sure they will relish the thought.
Kathleen Lynch: I was not being critical of the Minister but I hope he will agree that the purpose of the conventions on the itemised list is to provide protection for the individual, in particular the vulnerable, and that it is not possible to legislate for the child in particular circumstances?
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