A referendum to replace an article of the Constitution referring to women’s “duties in the home” will likely go ahead next year rather than this November as promised, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said.
The Irish Times reported last month that difficulties in agreeing a wording for a replacement article, and fears a referendum campaign could lead to divisive debates about the definition of the family and gender issues, had led to a growing expectation the vote would be postponed.
Mr O’Gorman on Sunday said it is more likely that the referendum will instead take place early next year.
“Any attempt to amend the Constitution is significant and needs to be well thought out,” he told RTÉ's The Week in Politics. “Every word we put in the Constitution has very significant meaning and can be interpreted by the courts. That is why we are taking the time to make sure we get it right on both proposals to make sure it has the support of the people.
“I know the Taoiseach has spoken with the chair of the new Electoral Commission in terms of making sure we have a proper run-in to make sure that the proposed changes can be properly considered. I think it is most likely that it will be early next year.”
Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion said the sooner a date for the referendum is set, the better. “I think it is really important the correct information is communicated to people,” she said.
A November referendum was promised by the Government earlier this year following recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in July that it was still the Government’s intention to proceed with the vote.
After extensive deliberations, the assembly reported in June 2021 the Constitution should be amended to refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination.
It also said Article 41 of the Constitution, which refers to the family, should be amended “so that it would protect private and family life, with the protection afforded to the family not limited to the marital family”.
It said Article 41.2, which refers to women’s “duties in the home”, should be deleted and replaced with language “that is not gender specific and obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community”.