Ireland votes to strengthen children’s rights

DUBLIN — Voters have approved an amendment to insert stronger rights for children into Ireland’s constitution with a narrower-than-expected 57.4 percent ‘‘yes’’ vote, according to official results released Sunday.

Only a third of registered voters participated in Saturday’s referendum, reflecting a low-key campaign. All political parties and children’s charities supported the ‘‘yes’’ side.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Sunday that the amendment will allow his government to pass laws making it easier for Irish children to be adopted, for courts to remove children from abusive homes, and for children to testify in court.


Analysts say the unexpectedly high ‘‘no’’ vote reflects low turnout among ‘‘yes’’ voters, antigovernment feeling, and a surprise Supreme Court ruling.

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Ireland’s highest court found that the government’s information booklet on the children’s rights amendment was biased and violated the referendum law requiring that the government not to fund only one side of a referendum argument.

The government apologized, resisted calls to postpone the vote, and urged voters to approve the measure regardless of the strong possibility that the amendment would face legal challenge if passed.

The court ordered the government to take down the bulk of material from its campaign website, which had a similar presentation of facts and arguments, but said it would be impossible to recall the booklets. The court had no power to order a postponement of the vote.

‘‘This amendment is 20 years overdue,” said Leo Varadkar, government minister leading the campaign for approval.

Associated Press