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Bishops given assurances on family status: Irish Catholic

The Government has given an assurance to the bishops that there will be no watering down of the Constitutional rights of the family under a proposed amendment on children’s rights, according to a report in today's Irish Catholic.

The assurance came at a meeting between representatives of the Bishops’ Conference and the Minister for Children Mr Brian Lenihan, TD, the report says.

In a meeting described as “constructive and cordial” by both sides, Mr Lenihan outlined the Government’s reasoning behind the amendments, and its current thinking on how the amendments should be made.

Speaking after the meeting, Bishop Colm O’Reilly said: “Our primary objective at today’s meeting was to explore the issues with Minister Lenihan, and his team, surrounding the proposal for a constitutional amendment to ensure adequate protection for children.”

Dr O’Reilly said that the Bishops’ Conference “welcome the invitation from Minister Lenihan to be part of a dialogue concerning such an important issue facing our society.”

He said “we fully support, and expressed our shared concern for, the provision of adequate protection for the welfare of all children. We explained from the outset that we were here to listen and that at this stage we could give no view to the Minister on the question as to whether there should be a constitutional amendment and associated referendum, or on the wording of such an amendment, should it be necessary, until we have considered all of the issues involved.”

Dr O’Reilly, who is head of the bishops’ child protection liaison committee was accompanied by Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Chair of the bishops’ education commission, Mary Quinn from the Catholic Marriage Care Service, Accord, Harry Casey and Fr Tim Bartlett, from the secretariat, Irish Bishops’ Conference.

In a statement after the meeting Dr O’Reilly said that “we noted the recommendation of the recent All-Party Committee Report on Child Protection that both the proposed wording of any constitutional amendment, and the legislation which would support it, should be made available to the people for careful consideration and analysis before any such referendum.

“We explained that it was our view that given the importance of the issues involved, adequate time should be given to all those concerned for careful consideration of these issues. The Irish Bishops are committed to giving serious and thoughtful consideration to all the issues involved and to issuing a considered response in due course,” Bishop O’Reilly said.

The meeting came as the detail of the proposed referendum is to be finalised in the coming weeks and will be brought to Cabinet at the end of the month or in early February for approval before being published.

The bishops are understood to have sought further information from Mr Lenihan on the specific detail of the proposed constitutional amendments, and further talks and contact are expected between both groups.

The meeting with the bishops is one of a series of talks Mr Lenihan has had with Church leaders in recent days. The Irish Catholic has learnt that the Minister held private talks with the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, last week. A spokesman for Dr Martin said that the archdiocese would be making no comment on the meeting.

Mr Lenihan also met with a delegation from the Conference of Religious in Ireland (CORI) to discuss the proposed referendum. Further meetings are expected to talk place in coming weeks.


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"The child...shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents."

Article 7. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.