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Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. While the convention has not been adopted into domestic law, it has been influential in supporting the development of an apparatus to promote recognition of children’s rights. Notable developments include the appointment of the first Ombudsman for Children in 2004 and the establishment of the National Children’s Office in 2001 which later evolved into the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and subsequently, in 2011, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs headed by a Minister with specific responsibility for coordinating policy on children’s issues. More recently in 2015, the 31st Amendment of the Constitution

(Children) Act 2012 was signed into law further strengthening children’s rights. The language and ethos of the Convention is explicitly reflected in the 2001 Act. Key principles recognise the special position and vulnerability of children in conflict with the law arising from their age, level of maturity and circumstances. Provision exists to protect their privacy during criminal proceedings, to inform them about the outcome of proceedings in an accessible manner and to provide alternative dispositions to custodial detention. Despite these developments, the values underpinning the law in theory do not necessarily translate in practice and concern has been raised about the extent to which aspects of the implementation of the Children Act meet international children’s rights standards (Kilkelly 2014). Ireland appeared before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the third time in January 2016. In the report that followed, the Committee urged the government to fully align the juvenile justice system with the Convention and other international standards. It further recommended the reinstatement of ‘provisions regarding the age of criminal responsibility as established in the Children Act 2001 at 14 years’ (Committee on the Rights of the Child 2016:17). The Committee also raised concern about the detention of 17-year-old males under sentence in adult prison.

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