Constitution and the family


A chara, – It is good news that the discussion on Article 41 will be given more time before a referendum.

While focus has been on the place of women in the home, the article is more wide-ranging on the place of central family life in society. How it deals with the place of women in the home is sometimes described as restrictive; this is not what the article says. For a time when women’s life was indeed more restricted, the article is remarkable in giving constitutional recognition to work in the home which, in the society of the time, was almost universally the work of women.

Society has changed, and a change in the Constitution deserves discussion.

Difficulty arises from tension between the values of life in the home and the economic life of the State. We need a healthy economy, but this must serve society, not dictate how it is run. The cost of living, including the cost of a home, imposes enormous pressure on families, and even two jobs are frequently not enough to provide.

We see evidence of this in our current housing difficulties, with so many, including families with children, without the security of a home. We see it too in what a joint Oireachtas committee said about reasons for seeking abortion: the majority of cases are for socio-economic reasons. The remedy should be social and economic, not medical.

Debate on Article 41 must challenge the structure of our economy where it is the cause of destructive pressure on families. Article 41 starts with an important principle: “The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.” – Is mise,



Dublin 16.