On November 10, a public referendum passed to amend the Constitution with strengthened protections of the rights of children.
Birth Registration: A person born after 2004 on the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, is automatically an Irish citizen if at least one parent is an Irish citizen, a British citizen, a resident of either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland entitled to reside in either without time limit, or a legal resident of the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland for three out of the four years preceding the child’s birth (excluding time spent as a student or an asylum seeker). Births are registered immediately.
Child Abuse: The law criminalizes engaging or attempting to engage in a sexual act with a child under 17 years old. The maximum sentence in these cases is five years’ imprisonment, but a maximum sentence of 10 years can be given if the accused is a person in authority, such as a parent or teacher. The law additionally proscribes any person from engaging or attempting to engage in a sexual act with a child under 15 years old; the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
In July 2011 the Ministry of Justice’s Commission of Investigation into the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cloyne published its report on the handling by church and state authorities of allegations against clerics of child sexual abuse. The report criticized the Diocese of Cloyne for not reporting immediately credible allegations of clerical sexual abuse to civil authorities or in some cases not reporting them at all. It also criticized the Health Services Executive, which maintained that there was no need for further investigation even after credible evidence of the sexual abuse of minors came to its attention.
Child Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years old. Persons under 18 years old must obtain the permission of the Circuit Family Court or the High Court to marry.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: A maximum penalty of life imprisonment may be imposed for child trafficking and taking a child for sexual exploitation. A person convicted of meeting a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation faces a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment, and the law provides that a person convicted of allowing a child to be used for pornography may be sentenced with a fine of up to 31,000 euros ($40,920), up to 14 years’ imprisonment, or both. The maximum penalty is 1,900 euros ($2,508), a year’s imprisonment, or both, for producing, distributing, printing, or publishing child pornography, penalties that the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has criticized as too lenient.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.