Dáil Éireann - Volume 453 - 30 May, 1995
Written Answers. - Civil Liberties of Children.
Mr. Molloy Mr. Molloy
25. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform the views, if any, he has regarding the enshrining in law of the civil liberties of children and young people; the intentions, if any, he has to do so within proposed legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9691/95]
Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor) Mervyn Taylor
Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor): In reply to Questions on 31 January 1995 I set out in detail the strategy of the Government in relation to children. Under its Programme of Renewal the Government is committed to dealing with a range of matters affecting children. It is committed to the rapid implementation of the provisions of the Child Care Act having regard to the resources, training and staff that will be required. A Minister of State to specifically co-ordinate key areas has been appointed with special responsibility for all aspects relating to child care and children's policy, particularly the implementation of the Child Care Act, for special education, and for the proposed Children Bill aimed at updating the law dealing with young offenders. Other areas of the law affecting the welfare of children, including adoption, guardianship and child sexual abuse are also to be assessed under the Government's programme with a view to being updated.
 The position regarding children under our laws as they stand is of special importance and constitutional and statutory provisions and administrative policies reflect that. My Department's responsibilities concern the civil law aspects as distinct from the criminal law aspects which are the responsibility of the Department of Justice and the child care and health aspects which are the responsibility of the Department of Health. As regards the civil law aspects, the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964 provides the very important principle that any court in deciding questions relating to children shall regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration. The civil law in relation to children has been updated and developed on a systematic basis in recent years and we have a body of law that is comparable with the best in other countries. Important provisions in relation to children have been provided for in the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976, the Family Law (Protection of Spouses and Children) Act, 1981, the Status of Children Act, 1987, the Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act, 1989 and the Child Abduction and Enforcement of Court Orders Act, 1991.
I initiated the Bill which led to the Maintenance Act, 1994. It enables the State to ratify a European Union and a United Nations convention to assist persons in the recovery of maintenance abroad. Arrangements are being made by the Department of Foreign Affairs to have those conventions ratified.
The Family Law Bill, 1994, which I also initiated and is before the Seanad having been passed by this House, has important provisions in relation to maintenance of children, raises the age of marriage from 16 to 18 years and, where family law proceedings in the courts are concerned, puts the reporting role of the health boards and welfare officers on a statutory footing. A Bill to strengthen the law on domestic violence will be published in the very near future.
The extensive provisions which already exist in our laws in relation to  children are, being reviewed and they will be updated as necessary under the Government's Programme of Renewal. The Government will, in addition, look forward to contributions from the recently established Joint Committee on the Family which, as Members of the House will be aware, has been asked under its terms of reference to deal in particular with the question of the protection and enhancement of the interests of children.
Dáil Éireann 453 Written Answers. Civil Liberties of Children.