Contrary to popular instinct, the idea that the welfare of the child should be the paramount concern in any family welfare case is wrong.
Children do not exist in a vacuum. They are created and sustained by a series of relationships between people. The idea that in a court of law the ‘rights’ of a child could be considered without the rights of its parents being given equal consideration is simply unnatural.
This is the central idea behind the proposed children’s referendum: that the constitution gives too much power to the family and does not allow the State to intervene on behalf of the child.
The ‘child’ in all this is actually the State. Who else in this new dispensation will decide what the interests of the child are? Decisions will be made by bureaucrats, social workers and courts in accordance with the latest child-rearing fad.
The role of parenting will be put on sufferance of the State – can some form of licencing and inspection regime be far behind?
No doubt there are bad parents. And no doubt either that the record of the State and its institutions in protection of children has been abysmal.
The idea that the authorities can’t remove children from their parents will surely draw an ironic snort from the victims of the family courts, mainly men, who have their children taken from them on a daily basis.
Indeed, that State has a whole raft of laws that protect children, all operating within the present constitutional arrangements.
This referendum is part of a wholesale attack on civil society so that our lives and relationships are not a private matter but must be carried out under the supervision of the State.
The original primacy given to the family in the constitution was to fend off this type of ideological intrusion and to ensure that the relationship between child and social worker is not given equal billing as that of parent and child.
The workings of our society should not take place through the State but through the everyday relationships of ordinary people, families and communities.
Where the present constitution is weak (and wrong) is not in the primacy it gives to families but that it does not give equal primacy to families which exist outside marriage. And the proposed constitutional amendment won’t do anything to address that issue.
I hate the expression “The Nanny State”. I hate it because its understates the sinister nature of the ideology where the State is taking over the decisions that are not its business, decisions that are properly the domain of individuals, families and communities.
I’m a bit suspicious of Fianna Fail’s motives here: who doesn’t want to make children happy? (Especially before an election).
But what is rotten about the proposed children’s amendment is the transfer of parental authority to the State. It’s part of a malignant ideology which attacks personal freedom and which will eventually destroy society by eroding personal and social responsibility.
After the sweet launch of the campaign, I predict a ferocious debate, particularly about the wording.
I’ll be listening but as of now I will be voting no.