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Sunday morning - Tom Johnson Summer School

Posted on June 16, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Sunday morning - Tom Johnson Summer School

In this post Rory Geraghty writes about the Sunday morning session at Tom Johnson - 'Legal Protections or Lip Service - What Protections are our Children offered under the Legal System'.

From the appointment of a Minister for Children & Youth Affairs as a full Cabinet post, to the Children's Rights Referendum, to the decision to establish a Children's First Agency, it is clear that we are living in a time of huge reform in the area of children's rights in Ireland, making our first panel on Sunday very apt.

Posing the question "Legal Protections or Lip Service - What Protections Are Our Children Offered Under the Legal System?" we were given 4 different perspectives on the issue of child protection.

Presenting on their own experiences, participants heard from Maria Corbett of the Children's Rights Alliance, Senator Aideen Hayden - National Chairperson of Threshold, Family Law Barrister Barry Fitzgerald and Dr. Ursula Kilkelly, Director of the Child Law Clinic UCC.

Interesting points were raised, by all speakers, in relation to what we don't think about  in the area of children's rights. Things like housing provision and teacher training to things as unlikely as  building regulation were all discussed. The core message from all speakers was that ultimately what we need is not just legal protections but to create a culture of care.

Suggestions on how to achieve this included awareness raising, investing libraries and after school supports as well as allowing children to have a voice within legal proceedings. All speakers agreed that the law is a framework which can be used to shape the debate around developing such a culture but crucially it is not the only thing we need to consider when we think about how to protect our children.

Probably the most universal theme from all speakers was their lambasting of the Direct Provision Centres used to house refugees. Each mentioned the negative affects this had on children over those crucial formative years and comparisons were drawn between them and Magdalene Laundries of the past.  

I suppose putting the most interesting panel on first thing on Sunday morning was a deliberate attempt by the organisers to ensure we all got up out of bed on time. But certainly it was worth the effort as it left us all with much food for thought.

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