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Ann Marie Flanagan (left), Dr Margaret Kennedy (right) and Michael O’Dowd (centre) outside Leinster House Brian Lawless/PA Images
8 March

Campaign group Equality not Care says proposed change in care referendum is ‘ageist' and 'ableist'

The newly founded Equality Not Care group feels the Government is discriminating against disabled people and their family members.

A PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL change on care is ageist and ableist, a new campaign group has claimed.

An upcoming referendum proposes deleting Article 41.2.1 and 41.2.2 of the Constitution, which make reference to a woman’s role and duties in the home, and replace it with a new article, 42B, that acknowledges family carers.

However, the newly founded Equality Not Care group feels the Government is discriminating against disabled people and their family members and has called for a no vote on this referendum.

It believes 42B would perpetuate the notion of people with impairments being burdens on families rather than equal rightsholders.

It wants a referendum that “expresses a modern interpretation of equality of the sexes with due regard for intersectionality” as protected under the nine grounds in Ireland’s equality legislation.

These are gender, marital status, family status, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, religion, and membership of the Traveller community.

“42B seeks to deny our autonomy, dignity and equality,” spokeswoman Ann Marie Flanagan said, adding that it “also seeks to deny us the right to State support such as personal assistance services”.

“We have a Disability Act 2005 that is still not fully commenced, already forcing parents into court for a Needs Assessment for their children,” Flanagan said.

She said that what is required is “constitutional obligations to provide support services to enable everyone to participate in economic, social and cultural life”.

“This referendum is made up of smoke and mirrors which is designed to confuse and mislead women and men, providing support and requiring support,” Flangan said. 

“It is a complete disregard for people’s rights. There is no dignity or autonomy in this referendum.”

Given that the majority of carers are women, Flanagan said the proposed wording would remove any mention of their economic rights and denigrates the “dignity of the family”.

Michael O’Dowd said the wording fails to “fulfil the comprehensive support promised” by the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality which recommended the referendum.

He said the wording was “abdicating on creating a truly equitable society”.

O’Dowd added: “We firmly oppose the notion that support should rest on families, as this unfairly entangles lives and overlooks the rights of adults with support needs to have independent lives.

“It further denies other family members that same right.”

Dr Margaret Kennedy said that 42B would amount to discrimination based on age and disability.

She said: “Equality of men and women, includes disabled woman and men and older women and men.”

It is one of two referenda to be held on 8 March.

The group said it had no collective position on the other referendum which proposes amending Article 41 of the constitution to extend the meaning of family beyond one defined by marriage and include those based on “durable” relationships.

O’Dowd is currently an Aontú representative in Co Louth. He was previously a representative for Renua. 

Dr Kennedy is a disability activist and campaigner on rights for disabled people in Ireland. She (and her identical twin sister Ann) have a rare neuro-muscular degenerative disease. 

Flanagan describes herself as a disabled human rights feminist, climate, social justice activist. 

The group formed just this month and are currently just focusing on the care referendum. At present, the group is self-funded. 

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