STATEMENT by Peter Power, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland
DUBLIN 07.05.20 – Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland, Peter Power, reacting to recent media reports on the abolition of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said:
“I am deeply concerned by recent media reports suggesting that the abolition of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is being considered as part of Government formation talks.
The Department of Children represents the interests of one third of the Irish population, a majority of whose rights can only be protected and fulfilled by adults. The representation of children at Cabinet is necessary to ensure that children’s rights are prioritised on the government’s agenda.
The Department’s establishment in 2011 was a major win for child rights. Internationally, Ireland received strong praise for its efforts in this regard. In the intervening years, Ministers for Children have secured legislative and policy changes that give meaningful effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). UNICEF is specially charged under the Convention with responsibility to uphold children’s right.
Despite progress, many children in Ireland continue to live with poverty, homelessness, violence or social exclusion and are denied the opportunity to thrive.
Only last September, the Irish government made a global pledge at the United Nations General Assembly recommitting to achieving every right for every child under the UNCRC. To achieve this, Ireland needs a full cabinet minister and a resourced Department of Children and Youth Affairs that can continue its mission, ‘…to lead the effort to improve outcomes for children and young people in Ireland.’
Next year Ireland will make its next report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva. During the last engagement, the committee applauded the establishment of a Cabinet level Department of Children. I believe any decision now to abolish the Department would be seen as a retrograde step for Ireland in upholding the rights of children under the Convention.
Abolishing the Department risks reversing progress made on children’s rights, and it would impact outcomes for children and therefore for society. To do so at a time of economic uncertainty, when we know austerity measures introduced during the last recession hit children hardest, is something UNICEF must warn against.
It has long been acknowledged that investing in childhood offers the biggest return on public investment. Continued strong leadership and co-ordination are needed now, perhaps more than ever to protect our investment to this point.”