Time to bring Bunreacht na hÉireann into the 21st Century – Equality referendum must happen this year

Ivana Bacik TD
05 March 2023
  • Labour Leader and Chairperson of the cross-party Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality calls for action on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality.
  • Proposed constitutional changes include:
    • Obliging the State to support care, both within the home and in the wider community.
    • Removal of sexist language from the Constitution by deleting text which refers exclusively to women and mothers as having a ‘life’ and ‘duties’ within the home.
    • Insertion of a more inclusive definition of family to protect and recognise all families in Ireland, not just those based on marriage.

Speaking in advance of International Women’s Day on Wednesday, 8th March, Labour Leader and Chairperson of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Gender Equality, Ivana Bacik TD, has called on Government to hold a referendum on equality in 2023, based upon the recommendations in the Committee’s report.

Deputy Bacik said:

“As we approach International Women’s Day, we recall and celebrate the achievements of the feminist movement in progressing gender equality in Ireland. From achieving paid maternity leave to securing the right to vote, and from lifting the marriage bar to repealing the Eighth Amendment, lots has been achieved.

“The Labour movement has been proud to fight for those historic wins. But the equality agenda is far from complete. Further constitutional change is needed to right some of these wrongs.

“There should be no room for sexist language in our Constitution.

“It is time to delete text which refers exclusively to women and mothers as having a ‘life’ and ‘duties’ within in the home. Changing this offensive text will be of symbolic value in terms of moving away from the Ireland of old, in which women were subjugated by the State, and its institutions.

“This country has benefited immensely from women who worked hard at home, and from those who achieved greatness outside of it too.

“The Constitution must also recognise the value of all caregivers. As such, the committee proposed replacing the current text of Article 41.2.1 to: “The State recognises that care within and outside the home and Family gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.”

“Whether we realise it, care work is a part of all our lives, at every stage of life. We all give or receive care from someone at some stage. Whether that is full-time care for a loved one with an illness or disability, domestic work like cooking or cleaning, or rearing a family – without care, our society could not function.

“Care is work, and it should be valued and shared equally. The current text of Article 41 of the Constitution does not recognise the various forms of care – both inside and outside the home, both paid and unpaid, and carried out by men and women – that is so valuable and indeed, essential to Irish society.

“Our report also recommended the adoption of a more inclusive definition of ‘family’, in recognition of the many diverse forms of family which exist in Ireland today. The restrictive definition which is in place now has exacerbated the different entitlements for married and unmarried cohabiting partners, and their children. Many people do not realise that the need to change the constitution is for socio-economic reasons, as well as just having a symbolic value. All families should be recognised and protected, not just those based on marriage.

“The work on this has already been done. Our Committee has produced the exact wording of the questions to be put to the people. All the Government must do now is call a date, and to give people a chance to have their say. International Women’s Day is as good a day as any to announce a date – and that is our call. We in Labour will continue to push for constitutional change, as well as for the implementation of the other recommendations of the Gender Equality Committee.”


To read the report, go to: Unfinished Democracy: Achieving Gender Equality (oireachtas.ie)

Other key recommendations include:

  • Commission a ‘cost of care’ review that calculates the financial cost of unpaid care and examines the societal value of unpaid care.
  • Move from a model of privatised care provision towards a publicly funded, accessible and regulated model of quality, affordable early years education and childcare.
  • Ensure that the State takes over full responsibility for the remuneration of employees in the early years and childcare sector.
  • Develop and establish a National Planning Unit for Care, to foster better linkages and co-ordination on care policies across all relevant Government Departments.
  • Establish a Statutory Child Maintenance Agency to keep child maintenance out of the courts where possible.
  • Ensure that action on the Third National Strategy on DSGBV begins immediately.

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