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Ireland voters approve children's rights amendment

Voters in Ireland on Saturday approved a constitutional amendment [text] on children's rights that changes existing wording in the constitution to make certain rights more explicit. The new article focuses on making several case law principles explicitly protected in the constitution. First, the amendment repealed Article 42.5 [text] which outlines the cases in which the state may step in as guardian of the child. The new language of Article 42A.2 [Referendum Commission backgrounder] allows the state to take "proportionate" measures as guardian should the child's safety and welfare be at risk regardless of whether the parents are married. Second, the new article explicitly recognizes children's natural rights [Referendum Commission backgrounder]. These rights were only implied through the constitution by the courts before the amendment. The amendment leaves the specific rights to be determined but uses stronger language to ensure existing rights are protected. Third, Article 42A.2 and 3 outline new measures to allow children of both married and unmarried couples to place their children for adoption [Referendum Commission backgrounder]. Previously, it was difficult for married parents to have their child adopted. Finally, Article 42A.4 explicitly recognizes [Referendum Commission backgrounder] "best interest of the child" (BIC) as the primary factor in deciding these issues. While it was previously the common practice, BIC was not explicitly referred to other than in case law. In addition, the new article allows the views of the child to be given weight depending on their age and maturity. The amendment was passed [Irish Times report] amid extremely low voter turnout and controversy surrounding the government's campaign for the referendum.

The campaign for the referendum was highly contested. Controversy surrounding the government's information campaign prompted Ireland's Supreme Court to rule [Irish Times report] that the information provided by the government was not impartial. After this ruling, several representatives called for the vote to be postponed [Irish Times report].

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