TCDSU endorse #YesNo vote in upcoming family and care referendums

The union said it is “imperative that we do not sideline the needs and voices of individuals with disabilities” in the March 8 referendums

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has advised students to vote no in the upcoming referendum on care in order to “not sideline the needs and voices of individuals with disabilities”.

Two referendums, taking place on March 8, are seeking to change the definition of family and the role of women in the home when it comes to care respectively.

TCDSU has endorsed a yes vote for the referendum to amend article 41 and change the definition of family to one based on marriage to based on “durable relationships”.

However, in a letter co-signed by TCDSU President László Molnárfi, Disabilities Officer Keeley Jenkinson, Citizenship Officer Ella MacLennan and Mature Students Officer Ailish Smith, the union said the referendum to replace article 41.2 does not “foster a truly inclusive and equitable society”.

The proposed replacement article 42B reads: “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.”

The union said this wording “takes a narrow view of carers, pertaining solely to family, and completely disregards the needs of people with disabilities”.

“This is a massive oversight on part of the government, and in light of further recent developments, such as the flawed Green Paper on Disability Reform, is no surprise.”

The letter also said the new article would allow the state to “shirk any legal responsibility” to provide resources and support services for people with disabilities.

“Ireland remains the only jurisdiction in the European Union where people with disabilities and their carers have no legal right to access treatment, and this is not good enough”, the union said.

“We need to vote no on the care referendum to ensure stronger rights from the government – ones based on enforceable, rights-based wording, not vague promises.”

The union noted this wording has been criticised by Trinity Senator Tom Clonan, as well as legal organisations such as Free Legal Advice Clinic (FLAC).

Clonan recently said the proposed amendment “gives constitutional expression to the conservative ideological position that the primary responsibility for care resides within the family and family members”.

TCDSU also accused the government of disregarding the 2021 Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality that recommended article 41.2 should be “deleted and replaced with language that is not gender specific and obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community”.

“By voting yes in the family referendum and no in the care referendum, we stand in solidarity with those advocating for a more just, inclusive, and accessible society, and are standing in solidarity with people with disabilities and carers,” the letter concluded.

The “yes, yes” campaign has been endorsed by most political parties, including the government parties, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and the Labour Party.

Sinn Féin, however, sharply criticised the proposed wording and said if either referendum fails, it will rerun the referendums based on the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations if elected to government.

Other student unions, such as University of Galway Students’ Union and Technological University Dublin Students’ Union, have supported a yes-yes vote.

This article was updated on March 5 at 5.10pm to correct that TCDSU is the only student union to have taken a stance on the referendum.

Ellen Kenny

Ellen Kenny is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News and a Senior Sophister student of Politics and Sociology. She previously served as Assistant Editor and Features Editor