Referendum on removing constitutional reference to woman’s ‘life within the home’ to be held in November

Vote follows Citizens’ Assembly recommendation to refer specifically to gender equality in Constitution

A referendum on gender equality and removing a constitutional reference to a woman’s place being in the home is to be held in November, the Government has announced.

It follows recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality and the special joint Oireachtas committee on gender equality last year.

Announcing the timeline on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that for too long “women and girls have carried a disproportionate share of caring responsibilities, been discriminated against at home and in the workplace, objectified or lived in fear of domestic or gender-based violence”.

Last October, his predecessor Micheál Martin said he would like to see a referendum on the constitutional clause about a woman’s place in the home being held in 2023, as had been the preference of the Oireachtas committee.


Article 41.2 contains a recognition that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved” and that the State shall therefore “endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.

Mr Varadkar confirmed that November’s vote would seek to remove the “outmoded” reference.

The Department of Equality will “very shortly” convene an interdepartmental committee to develop policy recommendations, with a view to securing agreement by Government on wording.

Minister Roderic O’Gorman said he intended to publish the general scheme of one or more referendum Bills by the end of June, allowing the Electoral Commission to be briefed and the Bill, or Bills, to be considered by the Oireachtas.

The Government expects the parliamentary process to take about five weeks, with enactment of the legislation by the end of September, after which a referendum campaign can begin.

In its final report in June 2021, the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality issued 45 recommendations, including that Article 40.1 of the Constitution should be amended to refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination, and that Article 41 should be amended to extend protection to the family, not limited to the marital family.

It also said that Article 41.2 should be deleted and replaced with non-gender-specific language that obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community.

The Oireachtas committee was established to consider the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations. Its final report, setting out its own recommendations and action plan, was published last December.

Last year, regarding Article 41.2 specifically, Mr Martin said the “devil is in the detail” when it came to how to word the proposal.

He said he wanted the greatest degree of Oireachtas consensus possible, noting that the “more simple we keep it, the better from a constitutional perspective”.

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik, who chaired the joint committee on gender equality, had previously said “the way in which women and mothers are referred to in Article 41 is based on outdated gender stereotypes and should have no place in a constitutional text”.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times