Monday, 19 November 2012

Ulster Says No (Well, Donegal did anyway!)

Here in Ireland we recently had a referendum on the rights of the child . This is because the Irish constitution, written in the good old days of a Catholic Ireland for a Catholic people (Cheers for that, Dev, you old bastard) holds the family unit as the basic unit of society and seeks to protect it at all costs - including those where the rights of the child may be infringed upon.

The referendum was held over a proposed change to this. The former and new wordings are detailed on the official site above. I'm not going to further analyse them, as the vote has already taken place, except to say that I thought the wording of the amendment was somewhat lazy and could have been more detailed, as the way it currently stands it gives a lot of scope to the legislation which will be broughbt in to follow it. However, it was an improvment on the former wording. 

The country said yes, though by a much smaller margin than expected - 58% yes to 42% no (

The two Donegal constituencies said no overall - as they have done to several recent referenda. People complain of reasons such as Donegal folk being rebels, the influence of Sinn Fein, and the county still being right wing/religious.

These may be valid points; another valid point may be the argument that Donegal people feel they have to do such things to get attention as it is generally forgotten. It is a county with a high unemployment rate and extremely poor infrastructure.

However, Donegal people love their children every bit as much as people elsewhere in the country. No one ever wants to see a repeat of the Roscommon incest case where there was horrific abuse of children and a court order prevented the HSE taking the children into care.

Donegal folk do however, have a good sense of the difference between the State as ideal, and the actual Modus Operandi of the state.

The official discourse around the subject paints the picture of the ideal state. Who wouldn't want children removed from homes where they are being abused, and adopted into loving, caring homes where they will get the best chances in life? Donegal people know this is just a facade, however.

The official discourse around the Gardai, the Irish police force, would describe them as upholding the law and protecting citizens, but what has happened in the county over the past few decades (e.g. the Frank Shortt case, the McBrearty case,  and other incidents dealt with by the Morris tribunal) mean the ordinary people know that things are not that simple.

Similarly, the state as ideal might want to look after children and protect them, but this is the same state that in real life has decimated help for children with special educational needs , has cut funding for youth projects especially in the disadvantaged areas that need them most and has threatened to cut childrens allowance (though personally I feel this is a ploy, something thrown out there so whatever cuts they do make in the budget they can say, well at least we didn't do this...).

This is the state which doesn't allocate enough resources to social workers as it is, so whatever laws they bring in around helping children who are in situations of domestic abuse, it doesn't look like they'll be able to do much to implement them. The state which, regardless of which party is in power, has been cutting social welfare and increasing taxes, dragging many children closer to the poverty line.

Donegal said no, not because of a lack of compassion over the plight of children in terrible situations, but partly because we know all too well up here that what they say and what they do are two entirely different things.

1 comment:

  1. You know Dublin North West voted no too Jo?! And we also don't have a Fine Gael candidate. Independent Republic of Donegal and Dublin North West!