The Cabinet has decided to propose deleting article 41.2 of the Constitution, which recognises women’s special place in the home, in a referendum likely to be held on October 25th.
The Cabinet also formally approved the legislation to allow for a separate referendum, likely to be held on the same day, which would delete the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.
The referendums are likely to be held in conjunction with the presidential election, if one takes place.
Article 41.2 governs the family, which the State recognises as the “natural primary and fundamental unit of society” and which it “guarantees to protect”.
The second part of article 41 – which the Government will now ask voters to delete – states: “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, a woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.
“The State shall, therefore, endeavour that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”
If the referendum is approved by voters, these two paragraphs will be excised from the text of the Constitution.
Ministers decided on Thursday to propose a straight deletion, rather than amending the article to include gender-neutral language or to recognise the role of carers in the home.
A Government spokesman said the decision to opt for a straight deletion rather than a replacement came after lengthy discussion and consultation with groups including the National Women's Council of Ireland and the Oireachtas Women's Caucus.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the Government wanted to use the referendum to have a debate about gender equality in Ireland.
“Over 80 years after the Constitution was formally adopted, it is clear that article 41.2 has no place in our Constitution,” he said in a statement. “It undermines today’s goal to achieve real gender equality by ensuring women have real choices about what to do with their lives.”
Mr Flanagan said the proposal to delete the provision “does not reflect a negative view of women in the home, it reflects a negative view of the notion that women should be confined to the home only, and should not have choices or be encouraged to play a role in public life.
Article 41.2 has been criticised both domestically and internationally, including by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. However, there have been several suggestions that the article could be amended to recognise the role of carers.
The Government said there was “is a clear appetite for a wider consultation on the issue of ‘care’”.
David Quinn of the Iona Institute said it would not be opposing the change. "I would have no issue in taking out the provision," he said. "It was always a dead letter."
It was not a decision taken after the abortion referendum, he said, adding that the institute never had any intention of campaigning for its retention.