The Rights of Children with an Imprisoned Parent in the Republic of Ireland
In recent decades, the Republic of Ireland (hereinafter referred to as ‘Ireland’) has witnessed a proliferation of children’s rights protections and initiatives at policy, law and practice levels across a wide range of sectors. Children, once seen as objects of adult protection, are now increasingly gaining recognition as subjects of human rights. Arguably, the latter is attributable to Ireland’s legally binding children’s rights obligations as set out under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC), an international treaty binding on Ireland since 1992. However, despite these positive developments, much of the reform to date has been piecemeal in nature and has not served to benefit all children in Ireland equally, particularly children with a parent in prison. This chapter will consider the extent to which the rights of children whose parents have been imprisoned are currently recognised and respected in Ireland. In particular, it will explore findings from a qualitative study carried out in 2015–2016 which gathered professionals’ perspectives from the prison system (including Governors, Prison Officers as well as those working in the visiting rooms) on children’s rights and prison visits. It also reflects the views of some family members interviewed as part of the same study. The study gauges the extent to which the rights of children coming through the prison gates to visit their parents are recognised and protected in practice. Moreover, it explores the level of knowledge within the prison system concerning children’s rights more generally. Finally, this chapter seeks to reflect on the extent to which a shift in prison policy recognising family ties as a key rehabilitative function has produced changes in prison rhetoric and practice in relation to children’s prison visits.
The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of Jane Mulcahy to the research upon which this chapter is based. They also acknowledge the support of the Irish Research Council, the funding body for this research.
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