Unrevolutionary, not unimportant

Maisie Mould makes the case for the significance of voting yes/yes on March 8

On the 8 March 2024, Irish citizens will be asked to vote on two referendums. The goal: to make Ireland more inclusive and protective of those previously neglected by the constitution. If passed, the definition of family in articles 41.1.1 and 41.3.1 will be expanded, and gender-specific language relating to women in the home in articles 41.2.1 and 41.2.2 will be replaced with new article 42b. 

The Family Amendment seeks to bring positive changes for many thousands of people in Ireland. However, it seems that there is nothing inherently revolutionary about this referendum. The constitution is running to catch up with the realities of contemporary Irish life.  

The typical nuclear family structure idealised by the Catholic Church is not, and has not been for a long time, the only existing model in Irish society. Of course, this model is still quite common and perfectly acceptable, but a range of others exist alongside it, and room must be made for them within the constitution. According to the Irish Times, over 40% of children born this year are in nonmarital families. The current wording of the constitution marginalises those whose familial structure is not based on marriage, such as single-parent households and long-term cohabiting partners. 

On Monday 22 January, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the law preventing Mr. O’Meara, father of three, from getting a widow’s pension, was unconstitutional. Due to s.124 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, which confines the pension to widows, widowers, divorced persons and civil partners, Mr. O’Meara was barred from receiving the pension as he had not been married to his partner before she died. This of course affects the three children of that family too, and goes to show that maintaining equal rights for children under the law that are not based on the marital status of their parents is of the utmost importance. Any contradiction of this idea is reminiscent of an Ireland of the past, one that had to campaign extensively for the abolishment of the status of illegitimacy, achieved at long last in 1987. 

Should Ireland vote a majority of ‘yes’, then the language of the constitution will be changed to include, in the words of Minister for Children Roderick O’Gorman, “the diversity of family in Ireland today”, and will pave the way for more significant changes in the future. 

The Care Amendment, like the other, seems like a long overdue change to reflect a well-established societal reality. Since the current article came into being almost ninety years ago, it’s effect has simply been to signify archaic views of a woman’s rightful duties, rather than actually offer any real support. The amendment aims to recognise that the role of caretaker is not gender-specific, and may be taken on by anyone. It also takes a further step, in pushing the State to offer increased tangible support for family care. 

On a university level, political opinions are widely very liberal, and it appears that most people are in agreement on the positive nature of a ‘yes yes’ vote. It is easy to forget the presence of right-wing politics in Ireland that are decidedly against the changes proposed by the referendum. It is of vital importance that citizens show up to the ballot boxes on the 8 March to make their votes count, and ensure that these positive steps are taken. 

Disinformation is rife, so for further information about the referendum, visit reliable sources such as the Citizens Information website, or reputable news outlets like the Irish Times or the Journal.

Maisie Mould

Maisie Mould is a copy editor and contributing writer for Trinity News and is currently in her Senior Fresh year of English Literature and French.