[Sinn Fein]

18th December 2001

UN representative to discuss children's issues

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey commenting on the UN Special representative for Children and Armed Conflict, UN Under Secretary General Olara Otunnu briefing of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee said:

``Children have suffered as a result of the conflict in the North of Ireland. Both directly and indirectly their lives have been scarred.

``Discrimination and disadvantage, repression, violence and loss have all contributed undermining the childhood experience. Too many have missed out on childhood altogether.

``As we move build on the opportunity created by the Good Friday Agreement in forging a new society it is vital that the voice of children is heard and that their rights are both protected and promoted.

``Internationally many are aware of the damage done to children by the sectarianism evident in the scenes from the Loyalist blockage of school children as young as four in north Belfast. We all have a responsibility to make sure children are not abused in this way. I have given my full support to a Bill of Rights and a Children's Commissioner and will ensure that both are effective and that children's voices are heard.''

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