Vote Yes Yes in Family and Care Referenda

Yes Yes Referendum Canvas
Yes Yes Referendum Canvas

As a former member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality and a longtime campaigner for change in this area, I am glad that we finally have a chance to amend our Constitution to recognise families in all their diversity and to recognise the role of care in society.

On the family referendum, right now, only families founded on marriage are recognised as “families” in our Constitution. That excludes so many of the other families we all know, including the 1 in 5 families that are one-parent families and many cohabiting couples with children. I believe it is unfair and unacceptable. Voting YES on Amendment 39 to give constitutional recognition to all families would acknowledge the reality that they are part of and contribute to the state, and it would also have positive implications in respect of social policy, social protection and children’s rights.
On the care referendum, I will also be voting YES. When I was first elected I promised to “bring care, creativity and long-term thinking into decision making” and as a feminist, I have long called for the removal of the damaging and discriminatory Article 41.2 and its replacement with gender-neutral language. I was disappointed that the wording chosen by the Government for this referendum did not fully match the level of ambition proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly or myself and others on the Gender Equality Committee, particularly regarding the role of “the wider community”. However, although it should be stronger, I do believe that the new Article 42B as proposed is far better than the deeply patriarchal and sexist language currently in the Constitution. It replaces a narrow reference to “Mother’s duties in the home” with a recognition of the importance of care between all family members, and not just “in the home” but wherever it occurs, something that is important in terms of things like personal needs assistants. It is also incredibly important that instead of the ambiguous term “duties”, we would finally have a section in our Constitution which names “Care” as essential when it has so long been invisible and undervalued.  In terms of the State’s obligations, “shall strive to support”, while still too weak, is stronger than the current language “endeavour to ensure” and I believe we will be able to use it in the Oireachtas and in the courts as a tool to put pressure on this and future Governments for proper services and supports.  
On the Monday after the referenda, the battle for gender equality, care supports and disability rights will continue, including the really important campaign for ratification of the Optional Protocol and full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must continue and accelerate. I will continue to do my best to progress all these issues.

I believe that a Yes Yes vote could make us a little stronger in that fight, while a No vote could reinforce the current discriminatory language and the patriarchal worldview that flows from it.

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