Former Supreme Court judge says scrapping of DCYA ‘would be a tragedy’

Former Supreme Court judge says scrapping of DCYA 'would be a tragedy'

Catherine McGuinness

It would be “a tragedy” if proposals to scrap the Department of Children and Young People (DCYA) go ahead, former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness has said.

The accomplished Belfast-born barrister and judge, who retired from the Supreme Court in 2006, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that she would be “horrified” if the parties involved in protracted government formation talks agreed to abolish the Department.

Its establishment in 2011 was warmly welcomed by children and youth organisations, but Fianna Fáil has reportedly been pushing for its abolition to make way for a new Department of Higher Education.

Under Article 28 of the Constitution, there can be no more than 15 members of the Cabinet, meaning the establishment of a new Department would require another to be axed.

Ms McGuinness said: “I would be horrified by this. Looking back at history of welfare of children in this country, we’ve had 19 official reports documenting on how children let down and badly treated by the State.”

She added: “If children were to be pushed back to being a sidekick of another Government Department, then a lot of the progress would no longer be front of mind in Government and that to me, would be a tragedy.”

Under Fianna Fáil’s proposals, the functions of the Department of Children and Young People would be merged into the Department of Education.

However, Ms McGuinness said: “The Department of Education has too much to do already to take up all the important work carried out by the Department of Children and Young People. If there isn’t a minister there at the Cabinet table, there is less strength, there is no voice.”

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