We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

yes vote

Sinn Féin pledges to re-run referendums if they fall and the party gets into government

The party has said it will back a Yes vote in the family and care referendums in March.

MARY LOU MCDONALD has said if the referendums on family and care fall on 8 March, Sinn Féin would re-run the questions with the wording as proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly, if they get into government next time around.  

Sinn Féin has decided that it will back a Yes vote for both referendums, but are doing so reluctantly, with McDonald telling reporters today that ”that some change is better than none”.

In less than three weeks, voters will be asked if they wish to:

  • Amend Article 41 of the Constitution to provide for a wider concept of family (i.e. not one only based on marriage)
  • Delete Article 41.2 of the Constitution to remove text on the role of women in the home, and insert a new Article 42B to recognise family care
  • The family amendment, the 39th Amendment of the Constitution, proposes to amend Article 41.1.1 to insert the words “whether founded on marriage or on other durable relationships”. It also proposes the deletion of the words “on which the family is founded” from Article 41.3.1.
  • The care amendment, the 40th amendment, proposes to delete Article 41.2 from the Constitution and insert an Article 42B with the following wording:

“The State recognises that the provision of care, by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them, gives to Society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved, and shall strive to support such provision.”

A number of parties have criticised the wording put forward by the government, however, the majority are backing a Yes vote.

If SF is in government, they will run Citizens’ Assembly wording 

McDonald confirmed today that if her party were to enter into government, and if both referendums fail, she would run the referendums again, but with the wording as proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality. 

“Should this fail, well then yes, the question we would put would be the wording as per the Citizens’ Assembly,” said McDonald.

“Yes. I mean, we would return to Citizens’ Assembly wording, that’s what should be happening now,” she said, adding that if the referendums are not successful, Sinn Féin re-run the referendums “early” in their term of government.

“That would be my ambition,” she said. 

In April 2021, the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality recommended the following:

  • Insert a new clause into Article 40 to refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination
  • Delete and replace the text of Article 41.2 (woman in the home) with language that is not gender specific and obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community
  • Amend Article 41 so that it would protect private and family life, with the protection afforded to the family not limited to the marital family

McDonald said the government has been “dragging its heels” on holding these referendums, and in the end, have rushed the process, and skipped pre-legislative scrutiny. 

Having carefully considered the matter, Sinn Féin said they will back the referendums, as they stand, with a Yes vote for both, stating these are “small steps” in the right direction. 

“Let me be very, very clear. This must be followed by concrete changes for families and carers that deliver a change that they can feel and experience in their day to day lives,” siad McDonald. 

She said the government talks about striving to support carers, but she added that it real change that is what’s needed.

McDonald said she supports bringing our constitution up to date to reflect the values of a modern Ireland and an Ireland to which everyone is valued and cherished. 

Real change needed

“But this referendum needs to be about much more than that. We believe that this referendum has to be a catalyst and a drive for meaningful change, concrete measures that will make real differences in the lives of families, people with disabilities and their cares,” she said. 

McDonald said it has long been her party’s policy to remove what she said is “sexist language” in the Constitution.

However, she said the problem is that the government, in their haste, failed to consult properly and to actually adopt the work that had been done by the Citizens Assembly.

“So I think we’re in the same case, as lots and lots of people who are figuring out what they’re going to do about this referendum because on the one hand, it represents a positive step forward.

“But on the other hand, it is not the comprehensive copper fastened recognition of care, vindicating the rights of care and carers inside the home and beyond, which certainly the Citizens Assembly had envisaged. So yeah, we’ve had to weigh that up and in the end, we decided not to allow the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said McDonald. 

The Journal / YouTube