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Irish vote ‘No’ on constitutional changes to family

Irish mother with kids

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J-P Mauro - published on 03/12/24

The changes would have removed references to mothers from the constitution, as well as broadening the definition of family.

The people of Ireland resoundingly rejected two proposed changes to the nation’s constitution, in a vote that took place on International Women’s Day, March 8. The measures were both opposed by the Irish bishops, who spoke out against them.

The first amendment would have broadened the definition of “family,” to include “durable relationships” other than marriage. While OSV notes that preliminary public polling suggested that this measure would pass, it failed with only 32.3% in favor and 67.7% opposed. 

The Irish Catholic Bishops were staunchly against the change, noting that the Irish Constitution considers the family to be a “moral institution” that enjoys “inalienable and imprescriptible rights.” They voiced concerns that the change could diminish the importance of this unique relationship: 

“We are concerned that the proposed Family amendment to the Constitution diminishes the unique importance of the relationship between marriage and family in the eyes of society and State and is likely to lead to a weakening of the incentive for young people to marry.”

Working moms

The second would have changed a 1937 constitutional protection to prevent mothers from being put into the workforce by means of “economic necessity.” This amendment would have changed the phrasing of the endeavor “to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.” The new passage would have read: 

“[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.”

This second amendment was supported strongly by the ruling party and received much support from the opposition as well, with the Catholic Church in Ireland standing as one of the few dissenters. The bishops noted that this change to the constitution would have been somewhat superfluous, as it does not prevent women from doing anything

“The present constitutional wording does not in any way inhibit women from working or taking their proper place in social and public life. It does, however, respect the complementary and distinct qualities that arise naturally within the Family. The role of mothers should continue to be cherished in our Constitution,” the Irish bishops wrote.

The Irish citizenry rejected this proposal at a rate of 73.9%, the highest “no” vote in Irish history. The bishops hailed this victory, as they argued that the change “would have the effect of abolishing all reference to motherhood in the Constitution,” and obscured “the incalculable societal contributions of mothers in the home …”

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