Politicians have spoken out this week about their concerns over a story line in TV drama Eastenders, which they fear could influence the results in the upcoming Children Referendum in Ireland, which aims to amend the Irish Constitution 1937 in respect of child protection.
The storyline – which has already provoked criticism from UK social workers – shows teenage mum Lola fighting to get back her baby, Lexi after the child was taken into care by social workers.
Local Fianna Fáil Deputy Robert Troy TD, who has campaigned for a yes vote in next week’s referendum has termed the sceanario, the “Eastenders Effect”, and pointed to the fact that the story line was impacting on the electorate this side of the water. “Quite a few times I have been asked about the storyline on Eastenders where a young mother has had her child taken into care and has faced a very difficult battle to get access to the child,” he said, adding that it appeared to him that viewers were becoming more “emotionally affected” by the story. “They have a real concern about the sort of heavy handed state intervention that is portrayed and we need to be careful about this.”
As the Children Referendum fast approaches – voting takes place next Saturday, November 10 – the Eastenders story line has begun taping into the minds of voters who are becoming increasingly aware of article 42A-2.2 which states, “Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.” Many voters have begun to question the State’s actual role in the protection of children and the consequent undermining of the role of parents under the proposed article.
“The reality is that one of the reasons why it took a long time to get the wording right on the amendment was because we had to get the balance right and make sure the State did not get too much power,” Deputy Troy continued; “We do not want the situation here to mirror Britain and this amendment will not allow that to happen. That is why it says the State can only intervene in exceptional circumstances, and that even then, the State action must be proportionate.”
Article 42A-2.1 states; “In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety of welfare of any of their children in likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.” In recent days, former Presidential candidate, Dana Rosemary Scallon has called for a no vote and insisted that the amendment is “unnecessary”.