Irish corporal punishment law breaches human rights rules

Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald TD
Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald TD

The Government of Ireland is set to announce changes to legislation surrounding corporal punishment after the Council of Europe ruled the country’s existing legislation did not satisfy human rights rules.

The European Committee of Social Rights said the lack of a clear, outright ban on corporal punishment in Irish law was in violation of article 17 of the European Social Charter, a legally-binding treaty of which Ireland is a member.

Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald said there existed offences related to corporal punishment already, but agreed that they would strive to be in “full compliance” with the new ruling.

A formal resolution noting the rights violation is expected to be made by the Council of Europe in June.

The case was taken against Ireland by a UK-based charity called the Children’s Rights Alliance, which is urging the Government of Ireland to outlaw “violence against children”.

Children’s minister James Reilly is now expected to announce plans to explicitly ban the smacking of children in foster or residential care through new regulations.

Frances Fitzgerald told a conference this morning that Reilly “is now bringing forward further guidelines on children in residential care or childcare settings to prohibit specifically corporal punishment”.

However, she insisted that “the vast majority of Irish parents don’t use physical punishment” and there were already “very robust laws” in place to protect children.

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