Wednesday 22 November 2017

We need a new Constitution that can serve people more effectively

Abolishing the Seanad should be a priority for any fresh charter, says Desmond O'Malley

AS we approach in the next few years the 75th anniversary of our Constitution of 1937, I think it may be a good time to start having a serious look at its value and its effectiveness after such a relatively long time. Our first Constitution lasted only 15 years and had been fairly easily amendable.

In considering the place of the Constitution now, I am not just thinking of amendments here and there, however desirable some of them may be. Rather I am suggesting that we need to think of replacing it with a document of fundamental law that takes a broader and more general view of things and that guarantees fundamental rights that will be eternal and universally true and not just reflective of the social and economic thinking of the decade in which it was enacted.

For example, Article 41 obliges the State "to endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home". Nearly one-third of births nowadays are to single mothers. A great many married women choose to work when they can get it. Article 41 may have been appropriate in the eyes of the 1937 establishment but it hardly makes sense today.

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