Speech by Jim Daly TD at the launch of Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes vote in the Children’s Referendum

Monday, October 15th 2012

I can understand how for decades Governments have neglected to bring this referendum before the people.

Being a father to my own four children, growing up one of eleven children, or the experience of having taught hundreds of children as a primary school teacher have added absolutely nothing to my appreciation for this referendum.

We are one of the families in this country who are extremely fortunate to be sharing our home with children who for a variety of reasons cannot stay in their own homes. It is only through our dealings as a foster family that I have come to realise how the current legal system underpinned by the Constitution has let down some of our most needy and vulnerable children. In our own experiences we have been utterly frustrated to witness legal interpretation and argument supersede the rights of the child being placed in care. I believe when passed this Referendum will give long overdue constitutional strength to existing and planned legislation to allow for real and secure attachments to be formed by children in loving homes throughout Ireland for generations to come.

Opponents of this referendum will speak about children being taken against their will in to state care. They will then proceed to present the state as this big bad and dark monster.

But what do we mean when we refer to children in the care of the State?

Children coming in to care are placed in families throughout the country, families that offer a safe and secure environment for the child to become part of the hurly burly and everyday dramas of normal family life.

Six o’clock every evening is a very busy and loud time in my house as the kids gather around the table to chat and argue the events of the day while eating their supper. This daily gathering is followed by bath time and then in their pyjamas; each child gathers up his or her favourite teddy and snuggles up on the couch for a bed time story before heading off to their warm beds.

This is what it is like to live in state care, not just in my home but in hundreds of homes throughout Ireland tonight and every night.

This Referendum will have no impact on the quality of life for over 99% of the children of this state. But for that group of children who cannot stay in their own family home tonight, the passing of this Referendum will offer so much opportunity for them to develop loving and secure attachments in new homes across this country.

I cannot detail my experiences of fostering here today but I can promise you that when these children become real living persons in your life, your heart breaks and aches in equal measure to ensure that they get the very best opportunities in life. The present constitutional weakness has for far too long hindered the best outcomes for these most vulnerable children. As a society we must take a stand on November 10th and vote Yes – Yes to a better and brighter tomorrow.

The wrongs of the past; we as a society must never forget

But we can do so much more than just merely regret

In this Referendum

Each one of us can become a voice for those who have none;

By ensuring the welfare of these children is priority number one.