DUBLIN, October 16, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Irish pro-life and family observers are warning that an upcoming referendum to amend the constitution regarding the “rights of the child” is in reality a “power grab of monstrous proportions” by government aimed at erasing the natural rights of parents and of children. The referendum is set for November 10th, and opponents say that if the wording stands, parents will lose all rights to raise their children as they see fit.

Human Life International Ireland (HLII) Chief Executive Patrick McCrystal said that the referendum is “staggering in its audacity” and “in a perverse sense … an attack on children.”

Critics are warning that under the proposal’s mandate, children can be removed from their natural homes and put up for adoption by the state at any time, “where the best interests of the child so require.”

McCrystal said the undefined term “best interests of the child,” “is a carte blanche to the State to do whatever it wants and parents will be helpless.”

The proposal intends to amend the constitution of Ireland to say that the state “recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children,” but declines to define or even name them. Instead, the amendment focuses mainly on the right of the state to remove children from their families and adopt them out or keep them in government care.

According to critics, its wording effectively transfers all responsibility for children’s welfare and education from parents and the family to the state. The proposed new Article 42A says that in “exceptional cases” where parents “fail in their duty towards their children” the state, “as guardian of the common good,” will be empowered to “supply the place of the parents”.

“Concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.”

The government is claiming that the amendment will address the abuse of children by various care institutions that has tainted Ireland’s past. But Nora Bennis, a conservative campaigner and the founder of the National Party, wrote in a letter to the Irish Examiner that the referendum “could lead to many more and far worse abuses of children because there is absolutely nothing in the wording to show how children will be protected from the State if it fails in its new constitutional duty towards Irish children.”

“It was the State and State agents that were primarily responsible in the past for removing thousands of children from their parents and placing them in institutions where they were physically and sexually abused,” Bennis said.
The idea for the referendum comes in the wake of a series of government-sponsored reports into allegations of abuse of minors in the care of various state-funded and supervised institutions over the last 50 years.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mary Ellen Synon called the proposal “dangerous” and pointed out the irony of the state granting itself further powers over children in the wake of the abuse scandals that they have laid at the feet of the Catholic Church. Synon pointed out that in her speeches promoting the amendment, Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland’s minister at the Department of Children, has never said exactly who has been “failing our country’s children.”

Synon wrote, “Answer, in almost every case: the agents of the State. Yet this amendment is geared to give the agents of the State even more power over children.”

Although campaigners on the NO side have their work cut out for them and less than a month to go, there has been very little movement from them to date. With the government pouring its massive funding power promoting the YES side in the referendum, very little in the way of public response has been made outside a small number of newspaper editorials, blog posts and letters to the editor.

In fact, the NO campaign is all but invisible in the public eye, with most pro-life and pro-traditional family activists focusing on the looming abortion issue. The silence prompted concerns by the state broadcaster, RTE, that the “low profile” of the NO side is going to make more problematic the usual rule of 50 percent coverage for both sides.

Even the YES campaigners appear to be wondering where their opponents are hiding. Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, was quoted in the Irish Times saying she was concerned there are not enough people on the No side to fully inform the public.

“People need to understand what the amendment is about and what impact it will have on their children and on their family life,” she said. “I think we’re probably concerned that the media won’t be able to run enough packages and enough items explaining the details of the amendment.”

LifeSiteNews’ requests for comments or input from NO campaign organizers have remained unanswered.

Fr. Peter West, Vice President, Human Life International, warned that Ireland’s growing hostility to the natural family is a sign that the government has only the government’s “best interests” in mind.

“One gets the sense that very few people in Ireland realize how radical the proposed amendment really is,” West told LifeSiteNews.com. “People of all faiths or no faith should be demanding answers from their representatives as to how this unjust proposal has even seen the light of day.

“Irish leaders must demand that it be buried, and that an article unequivocally protecting the sovereignty of the family, and parents rights, be adopted in its place.”

But the attempt at such a state power-grab in Ireland should not only be of concern to the Irish, “it must concern and outrage us all that such an obscene and dictatorial proposal is even up for consideration,” he said.

“Already in the UK and Germany we see parents under attack for daring to remove their children from ‘education’ that they find morally indefensible.”