Leo Varadkar unsure Citizens’ Assembly wording on carers stronger than proposed amendment

March 8th referendum proposes State ‘shall strive to support’ the provision of care

Leo Varadkar has said he is unsure that the wording on care proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly is stronger than the care amendment that will be put to the public in a referendum.

There are two referendums being held on March 8th that propose changing the Constitution.

The second, the care amendment, proposes deleting Article 41.2.1 and 41.2.2, which make reference to a woman’s life and “duties in the home”, and insert a new article that acknowledges family carers.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality recommended to replace the wording with language that was not gender specific and “obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community”.


The wording being put to people in the referendum says the State “shall strive to support” the provision of care by family members to one another.

Asked about the chosen wording, the Taoiseach said that “there is a different language that some people preferred”.

“And that was the State would take ‘reasonable measures’, but what’s reasonable? Is that actually stronger? I’m not even entirely sure it is,” Mr Varadkar said.

“One thing a government always has to do is make decisions and make difficult choices. So, I was there 12-13 years ago when we weren’t talking about more resources for anything. We were talking about cutbacks. And governments always have to make difficult decisions.

“So, if you put in language, say, which was really, really, really strong around care, but you don’t have any language in about cancer treatment, then you’ve a problem.

“So, you have to leave some discretion to the people you elect to decide how resources are allocated, how the money is spent, because if you put everything in the Constitution, it’s actually the courts who will decide, not the people who you elect, and that’s not a good idea.”

The Taoiseach said there had been “scaremongering” on the wording of the other referendum, which proposes extending the definition of family beyond those based on marriage and to those based on “durable” relationships.

“‘Durable’ is not a word we’ve looked at in the dictionary,” Mr Varadkar said.

“It’s there already in law in the cohabiting legislation from 2010 and it’s also already there in European law.

“So, a durable relationship is one that’s caring, it’s committed, it’s there to last. You can’t just accidentally find yourself in one and the kind of things we have in mind again will be a one-parent family, cohabitees, a family led by a grandparent or guardian.

“In a lot of ways these things are actually in our law already. So, people in receipt of the one-parent family payments, that’s under social welfare law, cohabitants have certain responsibilities to each other, that’s in law from 2010. What this does in many ways is constitutional catch-up.”

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He added: “We did think long and hard about the wording. And, you know, that’s one of the reasons why it took so long to come to this.

“We got legal advice, we got the Irish translators in the room during the meetings, because it’s the Irish version that actually has precedence in law.

“So, we put a lot of thought into the wording and durable, again, it’s not a word that’s in the Constitution at the moment, but is already there in the law and in European law, and has a lot of case law around it as well.” – PA