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Irish Referenda to Remove Women and Redefine the Family


Initially posited on International Women’s Day 2023 as a referendum to enshrine ‘gender equality’ and ‘non-discrimination’ in the constitution, the first (and, it was assumed, the easiest) of the two proposed changes to the constitution appeared in a much different form from that recommended by a Citizen’s Assembly on the matter. The government pivoted, catching even its supporters by surprise, by announcing that plans to include a reference to ‘gender equality’ would likely weaken the equality provisions already in place, such as “those relating to disability, race, or ethnicity.”

It is proposed that the current Article 41.2, which says both that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved” and also that “mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home,” will be removed and replaced with a gender-neutral provision.

The second proposed amendment to the constitution is a move to amend Article 41.1.1, which currently recognises the family “as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society.” The proposal is to extend the definition of the family beyond marriage, as “whether founded on marriage or on other durable relationships.” This proposal follows a 2016 referendum to introduce same-sex marriage into the Constitution, which was approved by 62% of voters, abrogating the interpretation of the family as founded on marriage between a man and a woman (and including their children).

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