ConCon takes steps to kick out sexist wording
TDs Frances Fitzgerald and Mary Lou McDonald at the meeting of the constitutional convention at the weekend. photograph: alan betson
Article 41.2, on a woman’s place in the home, was clearly set for the boot
Off to Malahide again to do the ConCon with those intrepid Constitutioneers and their Bunreacht boffins.
Is it really a month since the first meeting of the constitutional convention voted in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 but opposed reducing the presidential term? Don’t know about you, but we’ve talked of nothing else.
Onward ho! A new set of brainteasers awaited the legislators and citizens closeted upstairs in the comfortable confines of the Grand Hotel.
Thirty-three delegates are politicians – self-selected and unrepresentative of the gender balance in Leinster House. The remaining 66 comprise a randomly selected group of people who are “broadly representative” of Irish society.
The chairman, Tom Arnold, makes it a round 100.
And running the show, like children in a sweet shop, are the Bunreacht boffins – happy academics revelling in the whole exercise. Methadone for the MacGill Summer School set.
On the menu this weekend was article 41.2 of the Constitution, the one that places special emphasis on a woman’s place in the home, followed by a rerun of the old question of how to get more women into politics.
Also on the menu, a toothsome selection of Bunreacht biscuits and buns and a sinful assortment of Constitutional cakes and confectionary.
Compared to the dull opening meeting, the pace had picked up considerably, even if some newcomers found this impossible to believe. This was probably because the topics were more interesting – or it might have been something to do with the sugar overload.
With the empty teacups and plates of French fancies, the large portrait of a bewigged old lawyer in the top corner and numerous dog-eared copies of Bunreacht na hÉireann strewn around the tables, the scene resembled the morning after a Supreme Court night on the batter.
Mary Lou McDonald mustered for Team Sinn Féin this time out. The party appointed a dreamteam trio of delegates – they looked wonderful in the photos at the high-profile opening in Dublin Castle, but eyebrows were raised when Mary Lou, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness sent stand-ins to the first meeting.
As gender equality and the role of women in Irish society was central to the weekend’s discussions, it’s interesting to note the male/female breakdown between the politicians.
Delegates heard that the percentage of women in parliament in Ireland is very low by European standards – they make up 15 per cent of the Dáil. But it’s nearly 50-50 at the ConCon.
A case of positive optics, or that the men couldn’t be bothered? On the business front, it became clear early on that article 41.2 in its current form was set for the boot. “I think everyone agrees that the wording is sexist alright,” remarked one of the legal experts, agreeing that the article doesn’t reflect today’s Ireland.