Cherishing the children of the nation
Later this year, we are likely to be voting on a referendum to replace the current Article 42 of the Constitution of Ireland on Education with on Children.
There are some very welcome measures in the proposal, such as ensuring the representation of children’s interests in court and a recognition that parents can fail in their responsibilities towards their children.
It would mean that Article 41, acknowledging the Family as possessing “inalienable and imprescriptible rights” would be followed by Article 42 acknowledging “the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children”. Where a line is drawn between these may cause conflict, and is something that may be unpredictably defined in the courts.
What slightly irks me are the opening words of the proposal
The State shall cherish all the children of the State equally.
This clearly invokes the wording of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. This reinforces the erroneous idea that these words were meant to refer to children as such. People often invoke the phrase when talking about the social provisions for children.
But it is clear from the whole paragraph in the Proclamation that the children of the nation is meant figuratively to mean all Irishmen and Irishwomen, and in the context, an inclusion of all those living on the island of Ireland.
The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.
I think it’s a pity that this is being set in the Constitution under the new Article on Children. I was pleased, though, to hear it used in a correct context in one of the winning speeches in the 2010 Irish Times Final. The speaker, in a great section of a brilliant speech, mentioned the incongruency of this ideal of cherishing all children of the nation with Article 41.2.1° which talked of life within the home for women, rightly taking the phrase as about equality, not about minors.