The Government-appointed special rapporteur on Child Protection has said that the Children’s Referendum will re-focus Ireland's child protection system if it is passed.

Geoffrey Shannon said the amendment will allow hundreds of children in long-term foster care to be adopted and give children locked in a legal limbo a second chance.

He added that if the amendment was passed, it would not be the case that more children would come into the care system, but the right children would come into the care system.

He said: "This isn't about taking children into care. It's about the fact, in many cases, the State will be in a position to take a child into the care system.

"The child drifts in care because of the fact that child is unable to be adopted. So they live in a sort of twilight zone, between a family that cannot fully care for them and a family that cannot fully have them."

However, assistant law professor at Trinity College David Kenny said the language used in the wording of the amendment was not clear enough.

He said it may result in the courts continuing to rule that the best interests of the child lie within the family.

Mr Kenny said that while the draft amendment was an improvement on what had gone before, he had reservations about the phrasing used in relation to issues of guardianship, custody and access where the State is attempting to put the child at the centre of all proceedings.

He said: "It seems like a very clear piece of language, but if you look at it in light of Irish Constitutional history, I think the State might not achieve its goal of putting the children front and centre.

"The reason is historically, when dealing with the Irish Constitution, the best interests of the child have been presumed to lie with their marital parents.

"So if there is a dispute between marital parents on one side, and the State, or potentially adoptive parents on the other, then the marital parents have been presumed to have the child's best interests at heart, and the child has gone to them even potentially at the expense of an independent consideration of what would be best for the child."

Disability rights campaigner and former MEP Kathy Sinnott has said she will be voting no in the referendum.

She said the referendum will give the State the right to confiscate children from their families if it is passed.

She said the Constitution already has the power under Article 42.5 to intervene in cases where parents had failed in their duty towards their children for physical or moral reasons, and that this power allowed the State to take children from their families, if necessary.

However she said the State had not used this power, because it was "neglectful" and it had ignored the Constitution.