Dáil Éireann - Volume 440 - 09 March, 1994

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Recommendations on Parental Rights.

5. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice the plans, if any, she has to introduce legislation to implement the recent Law Reform Commission recommendations, LRC 45-1994, regarding parental rights to slap children.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: The Law Reform Commission report referred to by the Deputy, which was published on 18 February last, contains a wide range of recommendations in relation to the law on non-fatal offences against the person. The Deputy will appreciate that those recommendations will now fall to be considered within my Department and that they deserve very careful consideration. Any proposals which may emerge as a result of consideration of the report will [323] be announced in the normal way in due course.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Does the Minister favour parents having the right to slap children?

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: I am not in favour of parents slapping children, but I was a product of such punishment, as I am sure were all Deputies present——

Mr. McCormack: It did not do the Minister any harm.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: ——including Deputy McCormack, despite the fact that he says he was a model child. When my children were growing up they got a smack when they needed to be disciplined. It is very important that parents be allowed discipline their children, but how far that discipline goes is what is at issue now. The Law Reform Commission recommendation on this matter is generating a heated debate in the community. I would like more time to consider all the implications of this. That is not the only issue in that report which I will have to face.

Mr. G. Mitchell: The punishment referred to by the Minister did her no harm.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Nor did it do the Deputy any harm.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Would the Minister agree that the ISPCC advertising campaign is over the top and is undesirable? Will the Minister ensure that before implementing the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission on parental rights she consults widely with parents and teachers? Perhaps she should not consider the ISPCC as the only source of advice available in this area.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: I am sure the Deputy will acknowledge that the ISPCC does an enormous amount of good work in the protection of children and child [324] care. Advertising is a matter primarily for that society and I am not sure that we should pass comment or judgment on that matter. The reason I am not in a position to respond to the Law Reform Commission recommendations is that I wish to have wide consultation on them. A heated debate has begun in this area and it is important that the Minister consult widely with parents, representatives, children's organisations and people involved in social work.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Is the Minister aware that under the Children Act, 1908, teachers continue to have the right to slap children? Since the vast majority of teachers no longer exercise this right, has the Minister any proposals to change the law in this regard?

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Under the Department of Education guidelines, which were probably issued when I was training to be a national school teacher, the Department precluded the use of corporal punishment in schools, and that was a good decision.