The Terrifying Power of the State over Families: Ireland beware

Before you wrap yourself in virtuous intent and go off to vote Yes on this amendment, stop and look at it again: it is dangerous on many counts to families, and ought to be defeated.

The vested interests who are selling this thing have wrapped it in pious phrases such as ‘the legacy of failing our country’s children’ and leaving behind our ‘legacy of neglect, abuse and inequality.’ They hope you will not think to question what those phrases hide.

What the people using such phrases – in this case, the phrases are from Frances Fitzgerald, minister at the department of children – never say is exactly who it is who has been ‘failing our country’s children.’

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.

Yes, indeed, the same pack of vested interest public employees who have taken hundreds of children into care only to see too many of them end up run-away and dead of an overdose in some northside Dublin B&B now want even more power to direct the fate of more children.

Remember the social workers’ record so far: between 2000 and 2010, 196 children or young people ‘known to the Health Service Executive’ died. A total of 112 deaths were of ‘non-natural causes.’ This is a small country. One hundred twelve is carnage.

These are the same agents of the State who still put children into adult mental health wards.

The same agents who let unaccompanied under-age asylum seekers disappear from care and into you-don’t-want-to-think-what-kind of abuse by pimps.

The same agents of the State who have made sure what desperate pain is inflicted on families in so-called family courts stays secret and beyond public scrutiny.

John Waters, who has followed family courts closely, nailed it in Friday’s Irish Times: ‘I have seen Irish courts return the children of clearly blameless parents to foreign jurisdictions in the certain knowledge that these children would be put up for adoption against the wishes of those parents.’

‘I have listened on a mobile phone as a Garda officer snatched an infant from the arms of his loving Irish mother with the intention of delivering the child over to British social workers who pursued this woman to her home country, intent upon taking her child away.’

Now the agents of the State who can inflict such pain on families want even more power.

They say that without this amendment, children have no equal rights under our Constitution.

Wrong. Equal rights for persons of all ages are protected by Article 40: ‘All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.’

But I’m going to put all that aside. Let’s pretend that such equal rights for all, starting at conception, are not already in the Constitution. Pretend that instead, as the sales pitch goes, we have ‘been waiting for years for this’ to secure rights for children.

I will point instead to the law that is, to our shame, superior to the Constitution. This is the Lisbon Treaty.

Part of the treaty is the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Go to Article 24: The Rights of the Child. Here is what is already our highest law, since EU law trumps our Constitution every time:

1. Children shall have the right to such protection and care as is necessary for their well being. They may express their views freely. Such views shall be taken into consideration on matters which concern them in accordance with their age and maturity.

2. In all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration.

3. Every child shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis a personal relationship and direct contact with both his or her parents, unless that is contrary to his or her interests.

So what does the proposed amendment to Bunreacht na hEireann add to that? In terms of ‘rights of the child’ (and since I haven’t got space to go into the mendacity of that phrase, I won’t, not now anyway) the amendment adds nothing.

What the amendment does add instead is one very dangerous thing. It adds the power of the agents of the State to ‘supply the place of the parents.’

The vested interests pushing this amendment want that power.

The excuse they use is the historic list of examples of the rape and neglect of children. They pretend that the State has been powerless in the face of such abuse because the State did not have the power to force its way into a home and seize the role of the parents.

This is tripe. The problem has been that the agents of the State – in particular the Gardai and the public prosecutor – have not used the powers they have had for decades to protect children.

Incest? It’s already criminal. Rape? Criminal. Endangerment of children? Criminal. Neglect? Charge, try and convict the parents: it’s already a crime.

The agents of the State have already shown they either fumble the powers they have to protect children – as I noted, 112 dead — or refuse to use the powers they have to protect children.

Whatever the remedy is to this, it surely cannot be to give these same people even more powers — most dangerous of all, the power to take children away from their parents forever.

What the amendment will create is a caste of social workers with terrifying powers similar to those already in the hands of social workers in Britain. (Britain is under the Lisbon Treaty, so the laws similar to this amendment are in force there, yet none of that has stopped the horrors suffered by children and their parents at the hands of social workers.)

There is no man more aware of what can be inflicted on families in Britain than the veteran journalist Christopher Booker, a columnist with the Sunday Telegraph but known most famously here as the founding editor of Private Eye. He has been watching our Government’s moves towards this amendment from London.

Booker warns it will put us onto the road to a British system of child protection. At the weekend he told me:

‘There are now more than 90,000 children in Britain in state “care,” their number having more than doubled in just four years. If all these children were genuinely being harmed by their parents, there might be justification for what is happening.’

‘But I have followed in detail hundreds of cases which show that far too many loving responsible parents are now having their children seized from them by social workers for what appears to be no good reason at all.’

‘Parents and children suddenly find themselves in a nightmare world where they are completely in the grip of a heartless and inexplicable system – in which an array of social workers, lawyers, professional “experts” and judges too often seem unite in ruthless determination to tear their family apart.’

One of the great dangers of course is that in Ireland most people will imagine that the parents who get caught up in the nightmare of having their children snatched by social workers are never ‘people like us.’

Most think of the drunken, toothless perverts living in the shabby, remote cottages involved in the most famous incest cases and imagine those are the only sort of people whose children social workers would seize.

Think again.

All it would take under this new regime for your middle-class married self to have your child seized would be an ill-timed trip to the hospital to treat a minor injury or infection suffered by your son or daughter.

At that point some overzealous nurse can ring the social workers to say she suspects your child has suffered ‘non-accidental injury.’ You will then be expected to prove a negative, which is impossible: that the injury was not caused by you.

Welcome to the nightmare. Your life will never be the same again.

Under the new constitutional regime, if your child is put into care for just 36 months while you try to prove the impossible, the courts can order your child be adopted by strangers. The adoption will be irreversible, even if you finally demonstrate that the injury was indeed accidental and you have been innocent all along.

Still want to vote Yes? Well, as you stand one day in that hospital A&E and you see a nurse leave your child to make a phone call, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Source: The Irish Daily Mail

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