Expanded concept of family in Constitution will not cover polygamous relationships

The referendums, due to be held on International Women’s Day on March 8th, would broaden the definition of family beyond marriage in the Constitution

Polygamous relationships and “throuples” will not be covered under the expanded concept of the family which will be voted on in the upcoming referendum, the Dáil has heard.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman said all three Government parties would be “vigorously advocating” for a Yes-Yes vote in the referendums.

Legislation enabling the referendum votes on care and the family were passed in the Dáil on Wednesday evening and will go to the Seanad next week.

The referendums, due to be held on International Women’s Day on March 8th, would broaden the definition of family beyond marriage in the Constitution. There would also be a new reference to carers to recognise all those who provide care and to remove the reference to women’s duties in the home from the Constitution.


Independent TD Michael McNamara questioned what impact the proposed changes would have on the recognition of polygamous marriages.

“My understanding is that, I could be wrong in this, European Union law, as it stands at the moment, requires that for family reunification purposes, that the spouse and children of the first marriage only are entitled to family reunification,” he said.

“Irish law, the 2014 Act, is quite clear that all children of a person granted international protection are entitled to… all minor children are entitled to family reunification.”

In response, Mr O’Gorman said polygamous relationships had never been recognised under Irish law and did not represent “a fundamental unit group of society”.

“It [a polygamous relationship] is not one that represents a moral institution in Irish law and it is not one that represents as durable,” the Minister said.

“The very clear policy intention of the Government is that whether it’s a polygamous relationship, I’ve heard the word throuples thrown around… that issue has come up in some of the debates.

“We’re very clear, such relationships is not covered within the concept of durability and it’s not covered in the expanded concept of the family that we are seeking to protect.”

The Green Party TD also said the clear message was that the Constitution currently doesn’t reflect the State’s values.

“It places women in a particular category and doesn’t suggest that men or anybody else should be involved in the business of care… it excludes so many families from the recognition of the family in our Constitution.”

Opposition parties including Labour, the Social Democrats, People Before Profit and the Rural Independents had tabled amendments to the legislation, none of which were accepted.

Members of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Family Carers Ireland and One Family Ireland were present in the visitors’ gallery for the debate.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times