Labour welcomes recommendations to update definition of family in the constitution

Senator Mark Wall
15 December 2022
  • Gender Equality Committee recommends a change to article 41.3.1 to “family, including but not limited to the marital family”

Labour Senator Mark Wall has welcomed recommendations by the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality chaired by Labour leader Ivana Bacik on updating the definition of family in the constitution.

Senator Wall said it’s time our constitution was updated to reflect the changes in how people live their lives in Ireland today.

Senator Wall said:

“The concept of family has evolved and the makeup of our households have changed. The 2016 census showed an increase in cohabiting couples to 152,302, an increase of 6% since 2011. There are 189,112 solo mothers, and 29,705 solo fathers. While we await updated figures from the 2022 Census, we know that one in four families with children are one-parent families. Yet the laws and our Constitution have yet to catch up.

“It’s time to change our Constitution and decouple the concept of family from the institution of marriage once and for all. We welcome the recommendation of the Gender Equality Committee in this regard.

“This will have a real life impact on the over 75,000 cohabiting couples with children in Ireland. Labour has long campaigned to extend the same social welfare protections to these families, as well as families where the parents are married. If the partner of a cohabiting couple dies, they currently have no entitlement to a widows’ or widowers pension from social protection, even if both of them were working. But if one of them while cohabiting sought jobseekers or carer’s allowance they would be assessed under their joint income.

“We need to work to change the social welfare laws to provide supports like widow’s pension to surviving partners, and a change in the constitutional definition of the family would prevent further barriers occurring for cohabiting families.

“We have seen the openness of Irish society and its willingness to create a more equal playing field for all Irish people. The recommended constitutional change to put the emphasis on family rather than marriage is hugely welcome. It’s time to build a better Ireland, with communities with decent public services, where everyone can be guaranteed a roof over their heads, with social protections for all types of modern families.”


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