The Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan, says he is committed to a review of the rights of children under the Constitution, although he said he would proceed with care in seeking wording for a possible referendum.

The minister was speaking in advance of a hearing by a UN committee which is examining how Ireland has been implementing the convention on children's rights.

Mr Lenihan will tell the UN committee that he is embarking on an article by article examination of the Constitution as it impacts on children.

Some children's rights groups are likely to welcome the move, but may express disappointment that a swifter timetable is not outlined.

The Children's Rights Alliance has already been canvassed by the committee for its views. It highlighted child poverty, the drop out rate in primary schools and the need to tackle new challenges such as alcohol, obesity and asylum seekers.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Ireland in 1992, requires a Geneva-based committee to monitor its implementation by member states.

In 1998 the Government had a tough time before the committee, which highlighted poor progress on setting up the required structures and on reconciling the UN Convention with the Irish Constitution, which places a higher value on the rights of the family.

Since then the Government has set up the Ombudsman for Children, the National Children's Office, and created a Minister of State with responsibility for Children.

But the Constitution remains a vexed question. Painful episodes like the Kilkenny incest case have placed a need to enshrine children's rights in the Constitution centre stage.