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The ‘Children First’ Bill Has Been Signed Into Law
Nov 25, 2015

November has been an historical month for children’s rights in Ireland with the passing of the ‘Children First’ Bill into the statue books.  Finally children have been granted the same basic rights as adults.   As ChildFund’s Small Voices survey shows, children are crying out for both protection, and for recognition of their human rights.

Marina age 12 from Dublin, is concerned about other kids lack of human rights

Marina age 12 from Dublin, a participant in our Small Voices, Big Dreams Survey 2015

The Children’s Rights Bill is the statutory fulfilment of the ‘Children’s First Guidelines’.  It effectively turns this best-practice framework into law, thus enshrining the rights of children as not merely aspirational but absolute, and indeed, defined by legislation.

The Bill, which travelled successfully through the legislature, contained three central components of child welfare and protection.   A key provision of the Bill is the removal of the common law defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’.    This defence allowed for children to be distinguished from adults in application of their basic human rights as equal citizens.  Its removal essentially bans corporal punishment in Ireland.  Ireland now becomes the 29th Council of Europe member State, and the 47th state worldwide to ban this damaging practice.

Dr James Reilly, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs warmly welcomed the passage of the Bill describing it thus;

It is fundamentally a human rights issue concerning the dignity and welfare of children.  It is about giving children nothing more than the same unqualified protection under the law of assault that is available to other citizens.


Minister O’Reilly concluded that the passing of the BILL is;

An important first step forward in children’s rights and protections.  It is fundamental to establishing a culture that categorically proclaims that all children in this State are to be protected, and that individuals, professionals and organisations will all play their part in ensuring that this is so. 


ChildFund’s global survey of children, Small Voices,Big Dreams provides a fascinating insight into the minds of children in Ireland, and across the 44 countries that took part.   Some startling statistics emerged from this years survey which examined how safe children really feel in familiar environments, such as school, and inside their own home. Some 65% of Irish children surveyed worry about suffering physical or emotional harm while at school;  a troubling indicator by any measure.  The virtual environment of social media though is an area where children showed a particularly high degree of anxiety, with a massive 85% of children admitting to being worried about suffering abuse on social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat.

Findings like these remind us why it is so important to give children a voice and help us to provide them with the best supports and protections possible.

You can read the full Small Voices, Big Dreams Report here

ChildFund Ireland


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