The Constitution, family and carers

Government is gaslighting carers

Sir, – Una Mullally, in her column “Don’t use these referendums to register a protest vote” (Opinion & Analysis, February 26th) states, “Trying to convince women that outdated wording in the Constitution didn’t uphold a value system that oppressed them is gaslighting”.

I agree with the idea that outdated and anachronistic wordings should be removed from Bunreacht na hÉireann. However, what is proposed for insertion at Article 42.B in the “care” referendum is toxic to the fundamental human rights of disabled Irish citizens and carers. By giving constitutional expression to the patriarchal view that care is the primary responsibility of the “family” and by carefully omitting the recommendations of the citizens’ assembly and Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality regarding State supports for independent and autonomous life in the community for disabled citizens, the Government is reinforcing inequality and disempowering an entire category of Irish citizens.

Indeed, trying to convince disabled citizens and carers that the proposed wording at 42.B for our Constitution doesn’t uphold a value system that oppresses them is gaslighting. As a carer and parent to a beautiful disabled man – who wishes to live independently – that’s why I’ll be voting No. – Yours, etc,




Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – I find myself perplexed by the letter signed by 14 expert legal academics in Saturday’s Irish Times (March 2nd). The experts state that if the 39th amendment passes, “Article 41 will still oblige the State to ‘guard with special care the institution of marriage and protect it against attack’”. They add: “Other ‘durable relationships’ get no status or protection.” While the experts are correct that the special protection for marriage will remain, “other durable relationships” will receive constitutional protection. If Article 41.1.1 is amended, “the Family” founded on “other durable relationships” will undoubtedly be the same “Family” referred to in Article 41.1.2, directly below, which clearly provides that “The State, therefore guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State”. If the 39th amendment is successful, I would call this an express constitutional guarantee to protect “the Family” founded on “other durable relationships” to some extent, albeit not necessarily to the same extent as “the Family” founded on marriage, unless my eyes are not sufficiently expert enough to simply read the constitutional text.

Two paragraphs later, the experts seem to change their mind and state, “what the amendment would do is extend the definition of constitutionally protected families to include not only families founded on marriage, but also families founded on other durable relationships”.

At this stage, I, as a legal academic, am wholly confused, so I can only imagine what a member of the public is thinking when reading through this expert opinion. – Yours, etc,


Associate Professor in Law,

School of Law,

University of Galway.

Sir, – The arguments made against the proposed constitutional amendments are akin to the owner of a 30-year-old banger, which keeps breaking down, refusing a 10-year-old car as a replacement because they were really hoping for a brand-new model.

When the perfect choice is not on offer, reasonable people take the best option available.

Vote Yes on March 8th to consign a few antiquated bangers to the scrapheap, where they belong. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – In your piece about the funding of the ongoing referendum campaigns, you say that “some of the National Women’s Council’s funding comes from the State” (“War chest of at least €144,000 available to Yes side to campaign in March 8th referendums”, News, March 2nd). This is a considerable understatement.

According to its 2022 accounts, the NWC received 88 per cent of its overall funding, €995,000, from six Government departments or State agencies, including the HSE.

It received €611,000, 55 per cent of its entire funding, directly from the Department of Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth, the Government department which is proposing the two referendum campaigns. Meanwhile, despite claiming to represent me and other women of Ireland, the NWC raised just €23,000 in its own fundraising, just 2 per cent of its income.

Is it any wonder the NWC is campaigning for a Yes vote? – Yours, etc,



Co Roscommon.

A chara, – A relationship is durable if loading and starting the dishwasher is not a source of tension. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Here in rural Ireland, a relationship that survives the weather and the calving and lambing season is by definition infinitely durable. –Yours, etc,



Co Galway.