Forty-six countries around the world completely ban corporal punishment, including 20 of the 28 EU states. Ireland is now one of them.
Last Wednesday, TDs passed an amendment to the Children First Bill, removing a “reasonable chastisement” provision from Irish law, which had allowed parents and carers to use corporal punishment in certain circumstances.
Thanks to parents like Cyril Daly, who has campaigned for the rights of children since the 1960s, corporal punishment was banned in Irish schools in 1982. The Children’s Act in 2001 then outlawed the use of excessive force against children but “reasonable chastisement” was still permitted in the home.
Hitting children goes against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and this led to criticism of Ireland’s laws from the international human rights treaty bodies in the past. In 2006, the UN said it was “deeply concerned that corporal punishment within the family is still not prohibited by law”. Just last May, Ireland received a ruling from the Council of Europe that the lack of a clear ban on smacking children in Ireland violated their rights.
This new legislative development to finally and completely ban corporal punishment was kick-started by Dr. James Reilly TD, Minister for Children, and co-sponsored by Senator Jillian van Turnhout, when they introduced the amendment to the Children First Bill in the Seanad last month.
Welcoming the development, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said:
“Today’s momentous change means that children will now be safer and better protected. We know the harm corporal punishment causes to children. It affects their self-esteem, it damages the parent-child relationship and it simply does not work.”
“This abolition is hugely significant because it makes all citizens equal before the law. For generations, it has been illegal to hit another adult in Ireland. The law is now no different for children. This legal change is historic and a significant recognition that children are rights holders that must be respected and protected.”