Human rights are legal rules outlining how the State interacts with you.
These rights should be available to everyone, whatever their:
• marital or family status
• sexual orientation
• status as a member of the Traveller community
The Irish Government has committed, under both national and international law, to make sure that it respects, protects and meets the rights of everyone living in the State.
What rights do I have?
For the most part, children and young people have the same rights as adults, except in certain areas like voting. You also have specific, additional rights like the right to be adopted. This is because children and young people have different needs from adults.
Who makes sure my rights are respected?
The State of Ireland, through the Government, must make sure that your rights are respected. This duty is set down in law by:
• the Constitution of Ireland (in Irish called Bunreacht na hÉireann)
• the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
• the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Do I have a right to have my voice heard or to express myself?
Yes, you have a right to have your voice heard when people are making decisions about you or about something that will affect you. If you have not had a chance to have your voice heard, then you can ask how you can do this. Even small children and children who do not speak can make their views known through art and creative play. Adults should take your views into account when they make decisions about you.
Am I a child in the eyes of the law?
Legally, you are a ‘child’ if you are under 18 years old and you are not married. This gives you certain protections under the law. However, it can also mean that you cannot do certain things that adults can do, like vote or earn the minimum wage. References to ‘young people’ in this guide refer to people aged 13-17 years of age.
What is a guardian?
A guardian is someone who can make decisions for you. Usually, it is one or both of your parents. This role may also be carried out by:
• another adult
• a relative
• a foster carer
• a social worker
How do I use my rights?
You can use some of your rights on your own. However, sometimes you need your parent or guardian to help you. If you have questions about your rights and how you can use them, you can:
• phone the Children’s Rights Alliance information line on 01-902 0494
• email email@example.com
Children and young people often rely on adults to uphold their rights for them. Your parent or guardian has a duty to help you to achieve your rights. For example, they must give you food, shelter and medical care, and protect you from harm. Your parent or guardian also has a legal right to make decisions that affect you like:
• what type of school you will attend
• what type of medical treatment you may receive.
Your parent or guardian may also have to give their permission for you to do certain things, like:
• get a passport
• join a club
• go on school trips
In some legal proceedings, like child protection, family law and adoption cases, a child has a legal right to have their views heard and considered. This is because important decisions are being made that will affect their life.
How do I make a complaint or raise an issue?
If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by any organisation or somebody, you can complain. As you go through this guide you will see examples of how to do this. While the organisation or person you complain to will be different based on what you are complaining about, there are a few handy tips that you can use no matter who you are complaining to.
Children’s Rights Alliance, 2019