Friday 21 September 2018

Timing of referendum on the 'place of women in the home' could be delayed

Deputy Roisin Shortall
Deputy Roisin Shortall

Laura Laurkin

THE timing of the referendum on the place of women in the home is at risk following a decision to subject the legislation on the referendum to detailed scrutiny.

A meeting of the Dail business committee this morning rejected a Government request to waive the pre-legislative scrutiny on the legislation on the referendum.

Cabinet have approved a proposal from Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, to hold a referendum on Article 40.2 which refers to the place and duties of women in the home. The Government has proposed a straight repeal of the article which would see it deleted from the Constitution.

However, concern has been raised that the article should be replaced with something else that would recognise the role of carers.

It is planned to hold the referendum on the same day as the Presidential Election in October. But concern has emerged that the timeline may not now be possible due to the decision to subject the legislation to scrutiny.

The legislation for the referendum will now need to go before the Justice Committee, which is not due to sit again in September.

Minister Flanagan expressed his disappointment that the waiver was not approved and said he would be available for an additional sitting of the justice committee next week.

The article which the electorate will be asked to vote on reads:  “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.

“The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the language in the article as "sexist and anachronistic" and said: “a woman’s place is where she wants it to be and that is not necessarily in the home”. However the government hold the view that the debate on the role of carers in Irish society was best held as a conversation distinct from the constitutional provision on the place of women in the home.

Roisin Shortall, who sits on the Dáil's business commitee, said she hoped that there would now be a chance to have a debate about the best approach to the referendum.

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