Constitutional provision on women’s domestic role set to be deleted

Charlie Flanagan also seeking approval for referendum on issue of blasphemy

An 81-year Constitutional provision prioritising women’s domestic role is set to be deleted within months.

The Cabinet will on Tuesday agree to hold a referendum to delete Article 41.2 of the Constitution and remove a clause referring to a woman’s place in the home.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will seek Government approval to hold a referendum in October, alongside a vote on the issue of blasphemy.

Article 41.2 of the Constitution says 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”.

“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,” it continues.

The Minister for Justice will ask the Cabinet to agree to hold a referendum to repeal the Constitutional clause in its entirety

The Constitutional Convention examined this issue and reported to the government in 2013. Some 88 per cent of members voted against its inclusion in the Constitution.

Meanwhile, 98 per cent voted in favour of amending the wording to render it gender-neutral. It was also proposed to include other carers both “in the home” and “beyond the home”.

However, the Minister for Justice will ask the Cabinet to agree to hold a referendum to repeal the Constitutional clause in its entirety.

This follows a decision by an internal taskforce in the Department of Justice, with officials from the equality and civil law divisions.

A deletion of Article 41.2 had not been anticipated. It was expected it would be amended to reference the importance of care givers by using gender-neutral language.

Offence of blasphemy

The vote will take place at the same time as a referendum on removing the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution. The votes on the two topics may coincide with a presidential election, if one takes place.

Voters will be asked whether Article 40.6.1 (i) should be retained in the Constitution.

Blasphemy is defined as “matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”.

The Defamation Act 2009 made blasphemy a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. As far back as 1991, the Law Reform Commission recommended that the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution.

The law came to prominence last year when a Garda inquiry began after a complaint was made over British actor and comedian Stephen Fry making critical comments about God during an interview on RTÉ. No prosecution was brought in the case.