Speaking yesterday to reporters at the Fine Gael think in Galway she said she expected to see substantial progress in the next few weeks, the Irish Times reported.
“We will then be looking at the wording and the Cabinet will decide on a date. At the moment we don’t have a date, but it remains a high priority for the Government once we have a wording agreed.”
The Minister said there had been some difficulties with the wordings which had been in the public arena and the Government wanted to get it right.
“There have been some difficulties with those. But we are committed to wording along the lines originally proposed by the all-party constitutional committee on children,” she said.
That wording has been criticised because the ‘best interests’ of the child concept which it includes is open to potentially very wide interpretation and may give the State excessive powers of intervention in families.
Earlier, the Minister and her cabinet colleague Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Norah Gibbons, head of advocacy at Barnardos spoke to Fine Gael TDs and Senators at a session geared towards child protection and the planned referendum on children’s rights.
The wording proposed by a Joint Oireachtas committee last year for a referendum on “children's rights” would make it easier to adopt the children of married parents, although there are no proposals to make adoption per se more common.
Article 42.5 of the proposed wording said: “Provision may be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may prescribed by law in their responsibility towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.”
However, the wording proposed by the outgoing Government, which took into account concerns expressed by a number of Government departments, did not include a provision making it easier to put the children of married couples up for adoption.
Ms Fitzgerald said last month it was the Government’s intention to come up with wording that “reflects the wording of the committee” rather than that proposed by the previous government. “As soon as that is agreed and brought to Government, then we will publish it and we will begin an engagement around helping people understand why it is necessary.”
Meanwhile, Minister Fitzgerald has said that fixing the State's failures with regard to child protection is “not enough”.
Speaking at the Merriman School conference in August, the Minister warned that Ireland couldn't return “to the outlook that treats children as little vessels to be filled to the brim with imperial gallons of facts”.
She said: "Twenty years from now, we will need people who are entrepreneurial, creative, gifted at design, diplomatic, worldly, insightful, open-minded and confident.
"Those attributes are not poured like..facts into little vessels, rather they are imbued into the very fabric of society."