The Constitution, family and carers

Words matter

Sir, – Una Mullally rightly says “An anti- Government protest vote in the referendums would be a mistake” (Opinion & Analysis, February 26th).

However, it is perhaps disingenuous to equate voting No as anti-Government, especially on such a fundamental matter as our Constitution. Given the proposed amendments, which your columnist says are not perfect, why should we have to put up with imperfection or ambiguity in our Constitution in the interest of kidding ourselves that a replacement wording might be some degree better on paper or the “least bad” option? – Yours, etc,




Dublin 18.

Sir, – Una Mullally has it backwards when she suggests that an anti-Government protest vote would be a mistake.

I will vote No because of the flaws in the proposals but also because the Government has abdicated power to the citizens’ assembly, NGOs, quangos and social partners.

The most illiberal “liberals” are united in calling for Yes votes which means that a No would be a vote – however futile – for a return to proper, rigorous parliamentary democracy rather than the mushy groupthink of the last decade. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Many advocating a Yes vote on the care referendum refer to the importance of symbols and having a Constitution that reflects the values of today. Almost all those who consider themselves progressive agree that the wording is not perfect but is somewhat better. We are asked to not tie ourselves up in knots that it won’t have any concrete effects and that change in incremental.

I agree that symbols matter and we should have a Constitution that reflects the values of today. So let us examine the symbolism and values demonstrated by this amendment. This amendment places care as the responsibility (or burden as the wording implies by referring to bonds) on the family. The wording is carefully chosen to provide zero accountability on the State. It does not recognise those in need of care as autonomous human beings but only subjects of care.

Are we, as a society, satisfied with the symbolism in this amendment? Are we satisfied with wording that is utterly ableist, paternalistic and demeaning to anyone in need of care and people with disabilities? Are these the values and symbols we want in 2024?

The sentiment values implied by the wording in this amendment is no better than the wording it is replacing.

The citizens’ assembly, set up by the State, spent many hours seeking wording that would be robust, actionable, enforceable and reasonable. The State refused to follow the citizens’ assembly recommendation as it does not want to set in motion a more rights-based approach where people with disabilities, and those in need of care, can live independent, autonomous lives outside the family – supported to participate fully in the social and cultural life of the country.

The rationale and sentiment behind the State not accepting the citizens’ assembly recommendations aligns entirely with its behaviour which has concrete effects on the quality of life for people with disabilities. It is this same sentiment that lies behind the reason why Ireland has the joint lowest rate of employment for people with disabilities in the EU alongside Greece, even though Ireland has a healthy rate of general employment whereas Greece does not. It is this same sentiment that lies behind Ireland not signing the optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. This protocol establishes a mechanism through which individuals or groups who claim their rights under the convention have been violated can argue their case. To date, 94 countries have signed the protocol, but Ireland has not. It is the reason why over 1,300 younger people feel like they have no option but to live in nursing homes due to lack of support from the State. It is the reason why there is such a respite crisis and why so many people with disabilities and carers feel like they are in a constant fight to get even the most basic of supports that they should have a right to. We are a country that clearly demonstrates how society disables people, not their impairment or difference. We should not enable the State to allow itself off the hook like this. It should outrage us.

Voting Yes to this utterly ableist amendment would be a further kick in the teeth to people in need of care and people with disabilities. We will all likely, at some point, be a carer or in need of care. I want to live in a society that wraps its arms around anyone in need of care to uplift and empower them. I do not want to live in a State that makes them feel like a burden and makes them fight for basic rights. What would be meaningfully symbolic is to vote No, demand better and stand in solidarity with people with disabilities. Reject and reword with rights. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 24.

Sir, – While I find the discussions somewhat confusing on the upcoming referendums, I will “strive” to make sense of it all before polling day and hopefully “endeavour” to vote with a clear conscience. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.