Yes vote in referendums ‘champions rights’ for disabled people, single-parent families, carers, say campaigners

Rejection of move to change family and care articles of the Constitution would be ‘very painful’, say Yes campaigners

Campaigners for Yes votes in the March referendums on the family and care articles of the Constitution say they would be better able to lobby the Government for more resources and legislation championing the rights of disabled people, single-parent families and carers if the proposal is carried.

Presenting the referendums as an important “first step”, the campaigners also said if the votes resulted in no change to the Constitution, it would be a hurtful rejection by the electorate of those they represent.

In referendums to take place on March 8th, the Government proposes expanding the definition of family in the Constitution to recognise “durable relationships”, such as cohabiting couples and their children, and replacing the language around “women in the home” with language recognising care within families.

Karen Kiernan – chief executive of One Family, a lone parents organisation – said a coalition of civic society groups had drawn up a list of specific measures for “lone parents, for disabled people, for carers, for people who are impacted”.


James Casey, of the Independent Living Movement Ireland, a disability rights group, said although what was in the Constitution was symbolic, it was also “a value... and a value then can be reflected in real tangible goods as in rights, and rights can be reflected in policies”.

He cited the establishment of a right to a personal-assistant service as a pressing need for disabled people.

Ms Kiernan said a No vote would amount to a rejection by voters of their demands.

“It would be very painful at a personal level,” she said. “It would be a rejection of their lives, their identities... for many people, they don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t [vote Yes].”

Sinéad Tighe, a carer for her son, who has a disability, said: “I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t [vote Yes] but if it was rejected I think again yes, another door closed in my face, that’s how I would feel.”

Louise Bayliss, of single parents’ group Spark, said recognition of unmarried families in the Constitution would be “really important”.

“Because we know unmarried families suffer higher rates of poverty, higher rates of homelessness and it’s not just parents, our children suffer this... so we can use that as a lever to ensure that all families are treated fairly,” she said.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times