The Seanad has debated a private members' motion calling on stakeholders to oppose child beauty pageants in Ireland.

The motion, put forward by Senator Jillian Van Turnhout, also stated that child beauty pageants run contrary to the values set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Senator Van Turnhout said she firmly believed that childhood is a unique period, and that participation for financial gain by others judged by attractiveness and physical attributes is hugely problematic and contrary to protecting childhood.

Negative body image starts early, she said, and pointed to international examples where pageants have been banned.

Ms Van Turnhout also welcomed the Irish Dancing Commission's new rules prohibiting the use of make-up including false eyelashes, tinted moisturiser, or any artificial tanning products for the face for all dancers aged ten years and under.

Speaking in support of the motion, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said that "catapulting little girls and boys into a sexuality for which they are neither physically nor cognitively ready is a form of theft - the theft of childhood".

Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power also welcomed the motion and said she hoped that Irish dancing competitions would extend the rules to older children.

Senator Aideen Hayden said Ireland should follow France and ban pageants, adding that they should be outlawed by legislation.