DUBLIN, November 14, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The passage of the Children’s Rights Referendum in Ireland this weekend – 57.4 per cent to 42.6 per cent – is a blow to families, NO campaigners have said.

Opponents of the amendment say it rewrites the constitutional rights of families and replaces them with the statist priorities of the UN. Critics focused mainly on language that allows state agents to remove children from the family and place them in care if they believe it is in the child’s “best interests.” The amendment also allows children to be adopted out to other families without parents’ consent.

NO campaigners have charged that massive government and NGO spending for the YES side amounted to rigging the vote and “subverting the democratic process” - a position that the Irish Supreme Court vindicated in a ruling last week.

“This was a government-driven amendment, not from the people, with woefully inadequate explanation to the voting people of Ireland on a matter of such profound ramifications for the institution of the family,” said Human Life International Ireland (HLII) Chief Executive Patrick McCrystal, one of the leading opponents of the amendment told LifeSiteNews.com.

“Without the people realising it, the institution of the family based on marriage has been replaced as the primary institution possessing inalienable rights and is now relegated to second place after the State with respect to ‘best interests’ of children.”

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Despite laws to the contrary, he said, it was clear that the government not only actively supported the YES campaign, but worked to suppress opposition. In the midst of the campaign, a judgment from the Supreme Court found that the Government acted unlawfully in spending €1.1 million unfairly promoting the YES side. Following this decision, support for the amendment fell significantly.

Patrick Buckley, European Affairs Officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LifeSiteNews.com that despite the final outcome, the closeness of the vote is a sign that there is still significant public opposition to the government’s plans. Considering the poor representation given to the NO campaign, the fact that over 42 percent of the Irish people did not trust the government’s proposal was a “creditable result,” he said.

He asked, “How is it that there is no major political party that is willing to represent the views of 42% of the Irish people?”

“Saturday was a sad day for the people of Ireland,” he said. “I can only say that we did our best to alert them to the anti family agenda contained in the Referendum. The people have made their choice, and will have to live with the consequences which may or may not show up immediately.”

One of the obstacles faced by the NO campaign was the lack of support from the Irish Catholic bishops. The archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin issued a statement early in the campaign saying he was satisfied with the safeguards proposed by the government for families.

In a statement the bishops’ conference said they “share the concern of others to ensure that the proposed amendment on children does not undermine the rights of parents and the presumptive place of the family… as the unit in which the welfare and rights of children are best exercised and safeguarded.”

However, the bishops gave the YES side cautious support, saying, “When read in conjunction with the unaltered constitutional provisions on the family and education, the wording of the Thirty-First Amendment on Children suggests that a reasonable and balanced approach to framing the proposed new article on children’s rights has been taken.”

McCrystal and other NO campaigners, however, said the public, including the bishops, had been duped. He insists the campaign was really a ploy by government, under pressure from the UN, to abolish the Irish Constitution’s protections for the family, replacing it with the statist priorities listed in the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child.

Former MEP and presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon agreed with this view. In the midst of the campaign, she issued a scathing analysis of the proposed wording saying it abolished the traditional family-centred view of Irish society.

Pro-family groups, the Mother’s Alliance and Human Life International had joined the campaign against the government’s referendum proposal, warning that a Yes vote would be tantamount to Irish families signing away their own constitutional rights.

Former MEP and disability rights campaigner Kathy Sinnott said that some Irish parents were “terrified” over the prospect of the state being granted the power to remove children from families and adopt them out without parents’ consent. One independent legal expert said that the proposed new wording to the constitution would make children the de facto property of the state who would retain to itself all rights to determine how they are raised.

McCrystal charged that the YES campaign has been “profoundly unjust, deceptively conducted,” and that it had been run by the government, “in coordination with a plethora of interest and lobby groups.” During the lead-up to the November 10th vote, even YES campaigners appeared concerned that the NO side was lagging. Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, told the Irish Times there was concern that there was not enough debate to fully inform the public.

McCrystal also accused the leftist pressure group Atlantic Philanthropies of “subverting the democratic process” by pouring as much as €15 million into the YES campaign.

At the same time, state media did not give “fair access” to the other side of the debate, McCrystal said. This assertion appeared to be confirmed by Senator Catherine Noonan, who called on the media to exercise “editorial discretion” in order “to ensure that this campaign does not give a voice to NO campaigners whose main motivation is to raise their own profile.”