INDEPENDENT INSPECTIONS for thousands of children and adults in institutional care are needed to prevent the abuse and neglect highlighted in the Ryan report into industrial schools.
That was one of a number of recommendations made at a conference at Queens University Belfast yesterday, aimed at learning lessons from mistakes highlighted in the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
The conclusions will be given to Minister for Children Barry Andrews, who has been tasked with drawing up an action plan on foot of the Ryan reports findings.
Dr Aoife Nolan, assistant director of the human rights centre at Queens Universitys school of law, said it was vital to tap into the momentum caused by outrage over the reports findings to benefit current and future children in Ireland.
She said there was an urgent need to put a comprehensive constitutional amendment to the electorate that would strengthen the rights of children and allow the public to vote in favour of maximising protection for young people.
While such an amendment will not transform the position of children, it will constitute a significant societal statement of intent, she said. Crucially, rather than just serving as a stick with which the elected branches of government will be beaten by the courts, it will establish a mandate and an imperative for those branches to adopt a truly child rights-based approach in law and policy.
Dr Nolan said there had been a shameful lack of urgency on the part of the Government and politicians to acknowledge the need to improve the rights enjoyed by children under the Constitution.
A crucial part of any future recommendations must be an obligation on the State to ensure the voices of victims form part of any future actions, said Christine Buckley, director of the Aislinn Centre and a former victim of institutional abuse.
She said victims were among the best placed to offer ongoing advice and monitoring of the States efforts to address issues such as the abuse of children in institutions.
Fiona Duignan of Inclusion Ireland, an umbrella group which represents people with intellectual disabilities, said her organisation was very disappointed that the Government opted just weeks before the Ryan report not to enforce care standards or inspections of residential centres for people with disabilities.