Referendum on women’s place in the home may be delayed until next year

‘Women in the home’ proposal sent for further scrutiny before vote

The referendum on the woman's place in the home may be delayed until next year, The Irish Times understands.

The Dáil’s business committee met on Thursday morning and agreed the Bill to allow for a referendum must go through pre-legislative scrutiny.

The proposal is to delete Article 41.2 of the Constitution but there has been significant concerns raised as to whether this is the right course of action.

It is understood the meeting agreed the Bill must go before the Oireachtas committee on justice in September.

The Cabinet decided earlier this month to propose deleting article 41.2 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 were to be held in conjunction with the presidential election, if one takes place. It is understood that the blasphemy vote would proceed if the presidential election goes ahead.

The women in the home referendum is now likely to be held on the same date as the local and European elections on May 24th, 2019.

It is understood Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has informed Cabinet of the decision.

Article 41.2 of the Constitution refers to a woman’s place in the home. It 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 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. Ninety eight 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 Government has favoured the straightforward deletion, which has proved to be controversial.