Clause in Constitution may trigger meeting of Citizens’ Assembly

Changing wording on woman’s place ‘within the home’ subject of Oireachtas report

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan: “The Constitution doesn’t seek to define the place of men. I believe it should not seek to define the place of women.”   Photograph:  Garrett White

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan: “The Constitution doesn’t seek to define the place of men. I believe it should not seek to define the place of women.” Photograph: Garrett White

 

The Citizens’ Assembly may be asked to meet to consider the clause in the Constitution which refers to a woman’s place being in the home.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee is due to release a report on the clause on Thursday but sources said members could not reach unanimous agreement on the potential removal of the reference by way of a referendum.

The committee is now set to recommend two options in their report – amending the Constitution to make the clause non-gender specific or sending the matter to the Citizens’ Assembly for further consideration.

Article 41.2 of the Constitution reads: “The State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.”

It goes on: “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.”

Non-gender specific

If it is decided to amend the Constitution to make the reference non-gender specific, it is likely to read as follows. “The State recognises that home and family life gives to society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall endeavour to support persons caring for others within the home as may be determined by law.”

There was a plan to hold a referendum on removing the reference from the Constitution on the day of the presidential election in October. However, it was cancelled so the Oireachtas could examine whether the article should be deleted outright or amended to make it gender neutral, as per the advice of the Constitutional Convention and an internal Department of Justice task force.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland said it was in favour of taking more time to consider the issues, and called for a “national discussion” to take place.

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan said he favoured a straight deletion from the Constitution. “The Constitution doesn’t seek to define the place of men. I believe it should not seek to define the place of women.”