Justifiable assault – a grown-up policy on smacking?
By DANI GARAVELLI
When Irish senator and children’s rights campaigner Jillian van Turnhout co-sponsored an amendment to outlaw smacking, the child sex abuse cover-up that had rocked the country was at the forefront of her mind.
In the Republic, legislation allowing force to be used against children had been repealed in 2000, but a defence of “reasonable chastisement” remained in common law. There was no particular groundswell of public opinion for change; indeed, Growing Up in Ireland, a government-funded study, found nearly half of parents occasionally resorted to smacking, and polls suggested a majority of the population was against a ban.
But the UN Human Rights Committee had issued a damning report criticising the country for its “barbaric treatment of women and children”, with its position on smacking pinpointed as one of the key problem areas, and politicians realised the country was increasingly out of step with the rest of the world.