Ireland looks set to reject constitutional changes

By Thomson Reuters Mar 9, 2024 | 7:39 AM

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland looked set to reject proposals to replace constitutional references to the makeup of a family and women’s “life within the home” when votes are counted on Saturday, in what would be a significant defeat for the government.

Regina Doherty, a lawmaker for the Fine Gael party which rules in coalition with Fianna Fail and the Green Party, told national broadcaster RTE that early tallies from Friday’s poll indicated the Irish people had voted “in a very large way” against the proposals in two referendums, called the family amendment and the care amendment.

Ballot boxes were opened at 9 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Saturday and the result is expected later in the day.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had pitched the votes, deliberately held on Friday to coincide with International Women’s Day, as a chance to delete some “very old-fashioned, very sexist language about women”.

The two proposals would make changes to the text of article 41 in the Irish constitution, written in 1937.

The first asked citizens to expand the definition of family from a relationship founded on marriage to also include other durable relationships, whether founded on marriage or not.

The second would replace dated language surrounding a “mother’s duties in the home” with a clause recognising care provided by family members by “reason of the bonds that exist among them”.

But campaigners argued that the proposed replacement constitutional wording – saying the state shall “strive” to support care provision – would enshrine care as a private responsibility and not a state one.

In effect the proposal to spread the burden of care for family members with disabilities to the entire family from only the woman became a row about the extent or willingness of the state to support carers.

(Reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by David Holmes)