NewsIreland decisively votes against amending family and women's roles

Ireland decisively votes against amending family and women's roles

Surprising results of the referendum in Ireland. It was supposed to be a present for March 8th.
Surprising results of the referendum in Ireland. It was supposed to be a present for March 8th.
Images source: © EPA, PAP | MOSTAFA DARWISH

11:06 AM EDT, March 10, 2024

The referendum focused on Amendments No. 39 and No. 40. Amendment No. 39 aimed to modify Article 41.1 and 41.3 of the constitution. The proposed changes included redefining the family as "a natural, primary, and fundamental social unit," whether based on marriage or another enduring relationship, and the removal of the phrase "upon which the family is based" from the clause emphasizing the state's duty to protect the institution of marriage.

Amendment No. 40 proposed revising Article 41.2, which acknowledges the importance of a woman's role within the home and states that "mothers shall not be obliged through economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home." The government suggested replacing these passages with a recognition of family members' care for one another as a crucial societal support, coupled with a commitment to backing such care.

Rejection of both amendments

The results, revealed on Saturday evening, showed only 32.3 percent in favor of Amendment No. 39 and a significant 67.7 percent against it, with a voter turnout of 44.4 percent. While complete results for Amendment No. 40 were still pending, initial figures and government acknowledgment confirmed its defeat by a similar margin.

This outcome startled many as pre-vote surveys predicted easy approval of the amendments, with about half of the participants expressing support and only a quarter opposing them. The anticipated low turnout, usually beneficial to change opponents, and the sizable number of undecided voters were also noted.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, an advocate for removing "sexist" and "outdated" terms from the constitution, conceded that both amendments were "completely defeated at a commendable turnout." "We had a duty to convince the majority to vote 'yes,' and clearly, we failed," Varadkar acknowledged. Despite the strong push from nearly all parliamentary parties for the amendments, the Irish Catholic Church opposed them.

In Ireland, constitutional changes require a referendum approval, a rule stemming from the constitution established in 1937.

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