Referendums on role of women and concept of family in Constitution move a step closer

Two Bills to bring about referendums expected to go for approval from Ministers, after Oireachtas committee voted to allow legislation to be fast-tracked

Plans to hold referendums to expand the concept of the family in the Constitution and to remove the reference to the role of women in the home took a step forward on Wednesday after an Oireachtas committee voted to allow the required legislation to be fast-tracked.

The Oireachtas Committee on Children and Equality approved a request to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of the two proposals. TDs and Senators from Government parties defeated Opposition politicians by eight votes to four in two votes on Wednesday evening.

The two Bills to bring about the referendums on care and family are expected to go to Thursday’s Cabinet meeting for approval from Ministers, with a view to them being debated in the Dáil next week. The legislation will have to be approved by the Oireachtas before the referendums can take place.

The Government earlier this week approved proposals for the referendums, which are due to be held on March 8th, International Women’s Day.


The first referendum is aimed at amending Article 41.1.1 of the Constitution, which currently recognises the family “as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society”, to define the family as “whether founded on marriage or on other durable relationships”.

A separate referendum will address Article 41.2, which currently recognises that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”.

This would be deleted under the proposals to be put to a vote next year. A new article, 42B, which recognises that the provision of care by members of a family “gives to society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved and shall strive to support such provision”, would be inserted.

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman said this week that the current wording was an “archaic and sexist reference [which] has contributed nothing good to the lives of women in this country”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke about the upcoming referendums at Fine Gael’s parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday night, warning that the outcome for both votes cannot be taken for granted. He said the Government had to make the case for the amendments and the parties must run good campaigns.

He said any misinformation, distraction or misrepresentation will have to be met “head on” and “we should not shy away from taking it on”.

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times