Two referendums will be required to replace the Constitutional provision on women in the home, the Government’s legislative programme for autumn has disclosed.
The programme also included the first Facial Recognition Technology Bill in Ireland, which is limited in scope. The Bill will allow for retrospective searching of images which are legally in the possession of An Garda Síochána. It is being drafted by the Department of Justice and provides for what is described as the “safe and ethical use of facial recognition technology (FRT) in limited circumstances only and in relation to specific serious offences which are subject to a penalty on conviction of up to life imprisonment”.
The use of body cameras by gardaí has been the subject of much debate and controversy in recent months. The Irish Council of Civil Liberties has warned that the use of body cameras, and of FRT, could interfere with the personal rights of citizens.
The Coalition has been grappling with identifying a modern definition of gender, as well as defining the role of carers in society, since announcing it would hold a referendum earlier this year.
The referendum was originally planned to be held in November but the Minister for Children, Inclusion and Equality Roderic O’Gorman said at the weekend that the poll would take place in the new year.
The new programme, published by Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton on Tuesday night, proposes two separate Bills to provide for two separate referendums to repeal article 41.2 of the Constitution and to give effect to the recommendation of a Citizen’s Assembly, which recommended the article should be repealed.
In total, there are 27 Bills, which have been prioritised for publication between now and the first weeks of January 2024. A further 23 have been approved for drafting during the same period. Another Bill drafted by Mr O’Gorman’s department, the Prohibition of Conversion Practices Bill, has also been included on the list.
Another major Bill the Government is prioritising during the autumn session is the reform to Seanad Éireann’s university panel elections following a Supreme Court judgment that sections of the 1937 Act are unconstitutional.
Nine of the 19 Bills which were prioritised for the Summer Session were published during the period, with a further ten rolled over to this programme.
One of the new legislative initiatives is the Road Traffic Measures Bill, which will give effect to lower speed limits being introduced on secondary, rural and urban roads and will also introduce mandatory drug testing at the scene of serious accidents. Some of those pieces of legislation had been carried over since previous sessions.
The Civil Service Regulation Bill has been awaiting publication since 2018, while several others, including the Automatic Enrolment legislation (for people with no pension plans) and the Digital Services Bill, were included in previous priority lists.