The Irish government will review its law on smacking children after the Council of Europe ruled that the lack of a clear ban is a violation to children’s rights.
The use of violence as a means of discipline has been outlawed in Irish homes for nearly 15 years, but currently parents can still defend their actions as “reasonable chastisement” if they were to appear in court.
The Council of Europe has ruled that the loophole in the Irish system breaches the European Social Charter, whose signatories promise to “protect children and young persons against negligence, violence or exploitation”.
The government has been urged to remove the loophole and make the smacking of children completely illegal.
The Minister for Children James Reilly is expected to put forward new legislation that would explicitly ban the use of violence against children in any circumstances.
A review of the definition of “reasonable chastisement” will also be suggested to the Department of Justice.
The number of parents smacking their children has dramatically fallen over the past decade in Ireland. However, it is still a prominent behaviour in society. A survey carried out by Growing Up in Ireland revealed that as many as 45% of three-year-olds had been smacked by their parent or primary care giver at some point.
Graina Long of the ISPCC (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) gave her opinion on the Council of Europe ruling: “We’re hoping that it will give a direction to the Irish government that it must outlaw corporal punishment. That’s something that the ISPCC and many other children’s organisations, have been calling for some time.”
There have been numerous behavioural and social studies in the past regarding the use of violence as a means of disciplining children. Long and the ISPCC insist that there is no evidence that smacking children is an effective form of discipline.