Stacey Lyons - Vote YES - BLOG

On Saturday November 10th I will be voting yes in the children's referendum as I hope everyone will. As a volunteer youth worker I feel that this referendum will bring a very necessary change to the rights of the child in Ireland today.

This referendum will bring the law up to date and in line with our changing society and give the chance for the child's voice to be heard first and foremost by stating their rights explicitly in our constitution.

Through my work on the frontline with Limerick Youth Service I feel that the voice of the child is the most important in any case and we should always try to maintain this as the paramount concern when working with any young person. In LYS, I constantly come face to face with children for whom if our service was not there, may have chosen to pursue a different path in life. Our work in LYS is about giving children a voice in what they want to do within the organisation and the courage to find their voice to follow the path they want in life also. The extension of this opportunity to air their views in a court room situation which will affect their life is a very welcome development and one that is essential to the safety and welfare of the child.

The fact that the state is now bringing forward this amendment is too great an opportunity for our generation to throw away. As a social care student I believe it is in the best interest of the child that they have a say in what they want. Children, families and the state will now be given the opportunity to work together instead of against one another to ensure the best interests of the child, with respect to their age and maturity.

This referendum is also about making sure that all children are treated equally. Illegitimacy was once a hallmark of family law in Ireland, a very real barrier between children who were born out of wedlock and those born to parents within wedlock. Today children of married and unmarried are still treated unequally under child protection guidelines. If we want to grow as a society, these barriers are no longer acceptable. It is time that all the children of the nation and their rights are treated equally, regardless of their parents' marital status.

My work in Limerick Youth Service is focused around empowering young people and facilitating young people's voices being heard which is why I find this referendum so important. Young people should be allowed to have a say on the decisions that are going to affect their lives.

This referendum will protect the child in all cases focused around the child's best interests. People need to acknowledge this and commit themselves to supporting the rights of the child by voting yes.

Stacey Lyons is a 23 year old Social Care Student in LIT and a Youth Facilitator with Limerick Youth Service who has 6 years experience working with some of the most disadvantaged youths from across Limerick city and county.

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