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March Referendums

Varadkar launches Fine Gael campaign calling for a double Yes vote in family and care referendums

The Taoiseach said many people will gain new rights if a Yes vote is carried.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has today launched Fine Gael’s campaign calling for a double Yes vote on the 8 March referendums. 

Speaking at the event in Dublin this morning, Varadkar said nobody will lose anything from the changing the wording of the Constitution, but many people will gain new rights and new recognition.

On 8 March 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 politicians and civil society groups have raised concerns about the proposed wording of the referendums.

Many are still backing a Yes vote, but others are voting No, while some remain unsure.

‘Values as nation’

Speaking at the Fine Gael campaign launch today, Varadkar said the Constitution is not just a legal document but also much more than that.

“It’s a statement of our values as a nation, the beating heart of our Republic. We want to make sure that it reflects our values as a society and as a nation as it is now,” said the Taoiseach. 

Families that are not based on marriage like those led by a grandparent or lone parent will gain constitutional recognition for the first time, he said. 

The Taoiseach also said the new article on care will give protections to carers and those they care for that are now limited to only to women and only in the home.

“It will put a positive obligation on future governments to continue to work hard to provide additional state support for family carers, men and women, in the home and outside of it,” said the Taoiseach.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys, who is the party’s director of elections for the referendums, said that the vote is about delivering a more modern and inclusive Ireland

“It is so important that our constitution reflects the Ireland of today – an Ireland that recognises that all families are different, an Ireland that places huge value on the role played by our carers,” she said. 

The minister said her party is strongly advocating to remove the “outdated language in the Constitution in relation to a woman’s place in the home”.

“It’s important that we send a clear message to women, and indeed men, that a woman’s place is wherever she wants to be,” she added. 

Humphreys said she is looking forward to respectful debates on the issues.

Single parents

Fine Gael Councillor Anna Grainger from Dún Laoghaire was also at today’s event, where she outlined she became a lone parent unexpectedly when her son was one.

She said the Constitution has never recognised her family, stating that since its very existence they have not been given the same protections and supports available to other families.

“If that’s not a blatant injustice to thousands of families in Ireland, I don’t know what is,” she said.

IMG_6425 (1) Fine Gael Councillor Anna Grainger from Dún Laoghaire. Jane Matthews Jane Matthews

She first experienced this inequality on the day her son was born when she was told in the hospital she would have to go elsewhere to register his birth because she was unmarried.

She said a Yes vote on March 8 will mean her family will finally be treated equally with the same fundamental personal rights, respect, values, protections and opportunities that other families have enjoyed for decades. 

Tracy Carroll from Meath, also at the event, is a carer for her daughter Willow (7), who has complex needs and son Noah (9), who is autistic.

“A Yes vote for our family means recognition. It will make care visible and places an obligation on the government and future governments, to provide, support and make our society accessible for all,” she said.

IMG_6421 (1) Fine Gael Councillor John Reilly from Louth speaking at the launch of the party's Yes vote campaign. Jane Matthews Jane Matthews

Meanwhile, Fine Gael Councillor John Reilly from Louth, who has an autistic adult son, Chris (23), with complex medical needs, said the referendum on care, in his view, is a move away from outdated notions of parental roles.

Family occasions have to be planned with military precision due to the pressures of care, telling the attendees at today’s launch that if they are are lucky they might be able to get a two-day trip in Ireland.

He said the Constitution as it stands fails to recognise the complexities of caring for the modern family bond.

“Voting yes will change that,” he said, adding that it would recognise him as a carer for Christopher on an equal basis to any other member of the Reilly family.

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