Kelly urges referendum on family following Johnny O’Meara case

13 July 2023

Labour Deputy Alan Kelly has urged Government to bring forward a referendum to end discrimination against unmarried families.

Following the adjournment of the Supreme Court of the Johnny O’Meara case, Deputy Kelly said Ireland’s laws and supports must catch up with the way people live their lives.

Deputy Kelly said:

“I have been proud to campaign with the O’Meara’s since they first came to me in 2021 following the untimely passing of Johnny’s partner Michelle from cancer in 2018. That October, I called on the Taoiseach in the Dáil to change the law to support the over 150,000 cohabiting couples in Ireland to give them protection when the worst happens.

“In Johnny O’Meara’s case, both he and his partner Michelle had been working, both paying PRSI and were both contributing to the system. Yet, when it matters most, Johnny was not able to avail of the support of the Widower’s Pension because they were not married.

“Government must now commit to holding a referendum to remove the priority given to the ‘marital family’ in the constitution. All families should be treated equally.

“Cohabiting parents are assessed as a unit if either of them apply for social welfare support. Yet, when it matters most, their martial status prevents them from accessing the widow’s grant and pension. It’s ridiculous, it’s out of touch and it’s time to change it.

“It’s time the law caught up with modern family life. The Citizens’ Assembly called for Article 41 of the Constitution to be amended to protect private and family life not limited to the marital family.

“Doing so would have a real life impact for the over 75,000 cohabiting couples with children in Ireland. I have been proud to campaign alongside my Labour colleagues on our call to extend the same social welfare protections to these families, as well as families where the parents are married.

“Johnny O’Meara’s case has always been about equality for his family. The lack of welfare supports for unmarried couples is a stain on Irish society. We need to step up and address the situation to provide equality for all families.”

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