The Government will seek the Attorney General’s advice as part of its consideration of the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children's Rights, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said.
Mr Cowen also refused to specify a referendum date.
“Obviously there are complex legal and constitutional issues at the heart of this report. We will give it our attention obviously and seek the Attorney’s views on it,” Mr Cowen told the Dáil yesterday.
Asked to clarify a recent reference to the possibility of a constitutional referendum taking place “at the back end of the year” from Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin, he said she meant the second half of 2010.
Speaking at the launch of the report yesterday, committee member Alan Shatter of Fine Gael said he hoped Government would make a “rapid decision to accept the wording as proposed” and his call was echoed by other members of the committee.
According to The Irish Times, Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews, who attended yesterday’s launch, said while he “certainly” wanted to see a referendum on children’s rights but it would be “invidious” to set a time limit.
He could not anticipate what the Government would say or the advice it would receive. He said: “For the first time we have party political consensus on the issue and the more important thing would be to get it right.”
However, Mr Andrews said: “We would consider this one of the most important referendums to take place ever.”
A Government spokesman said Cabinet would now consider the report and, while no decision had yet been made on accepting the wording, the matter would be “progressed as a matter of priority”.
He said Mr Andrews briefed ministerial colleagues on the content of the report at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.