Children’s groups are putting pressure on the Irish Government to introduce a law making it illegal for parents to smack their children.
Until 2001, Parents had the right to use ‘reasonable and moderate chastisement’ to discipline their children. These rights were repealed in the 2001 Children’s Act.
However, while the Children’s Act removed parent’s rights to smack their children, it failed to specify what level of force they could use and what the consequence would be if they overstepped the mark.
Children’s groups have taken the matter to the European Council. They say the Irish State has not made enough effort to eradicate what they see as violence towards children.
However, many Irish people don’t believe there is anything wrong with smacking a child. According to study titled ‘Growing up in Ireland’, nearly half of the Irish public say it is acceptable to slap a child. It also reveals that 11% of mothers smack their children ‘now and again’.
Ireland’s Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, says that a lot of work has been done to convince Irish parents to abandon physical punishments for their children in favour of non-violent forms of discipline.
She said that the 2001 Children’s Act contained deterrents from using excessive force and that many parents had been successfully prosecuted after breaching the terms of the Act.
Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive, Tanya Ward, doesn’t believe the measures are adequate. She is urging the government introduce legislation that outlaws ‘violence against children’.
The Children’s Rights Alliance believe that the government should not allow parents to strike their children and should provide better parenting support programmes.
Ms Ward said: “We are also seeking a prohibition on the use of corporal punishment in all settings. Corporal punishment is a form of violence and ill-treatment from which all children have a right to be protected.”
An official complaint was made to the Council of Europe who have given Minister Fitzgerald until the end of the month to respond.