Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages
Jan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 45, between lines 42 and 43, to insert the following:
"(2) Without prejudice to the obligation of the Executive to have regard to the views of the child, bearing in mind the child's age and understanding, prior to taking steps under this section, the court shall give such directions as are appropriate where the Health Service Executive proposes to take steps to which the child does not consent.".
The matter to which these amendments relate was the subject of detailed discussion both in the Seanad and on Committee Stage here. Essentially, it concerns having the views of the child, bearing in mind his or her age and level of understanding, taken into account prior to any steps being taken under this section. I refer, in particular, to any steps which might be taken in circumstances where the child does not consent. Again, this is both self-explanatory and important.
In the past harrowing reports have been compiled in respect of various cases involving children. In the cases to which I refer, the voice of the child was not heard. The various reports to which I refer all contained recommendations to the effect that it was extremely important for the voice of the child to be heard. The most recent and most harrowing of these reports was that relating to the case in Roscommon. In that instance, it was clear that the children involved had not been able to express, from their perspective, what was happening to them in a situation where adults, parents or others were not present. I accept that the situation we are discussing in the context of the Bill is completely different but the principle is the same, namely, that a child's voice must be heard in the context of his or her welfare. It is obvious, however, that various matters, such as his or her ability to express himself or herself, his or her age, etc, must be taken into account.
This is an extremely important principle in any legislation relating to children. The Minister of State appeared to be particularly sympathetic in respect of it, particularly during the debate in the Seanad. A number of amendments relating to this matter - some of them are similar - have been tabled. There is virtual unanimity among the Opposition parties in respect of this issue. I hope, in the context of these amendments, the Minister of State will listen to the collective voice of those in opposition.