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Ireland's Historic Referendum: Amending Article 41.2

Setting the Stage: A Constitutional Amendment

Ireland is on the verge of a historic decision set for November, as the nation gears up for a crucial referendum aimed at revising Article 41.2 of its constitution. This article, which has remained unchanged for 86 years, contains references that many consider outdated, especially in the context of modern gender equality.


The Current Article 41.2: Outdated References

The existing Article 41.2 states that "Ireland recognizes that, by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved" and that "mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home."


A Progressive Trend: Recent Referendum Successes

In recent years, Ireland has witnessed a series of successful referendums, indicating the nation's commitment to progress and inclusivity. Notably, referendums to legalize same-sex marriage and liberalize restrictive abortion laws were passed by significant majorities, showcasing a shift towards a more progressive and inclusive society.


A Call for Change: The Citizen's Assembly Recommendation

The decision to amend Article 41.2 comes as a result of a recommendation by a citizen's assembly, a forum established to debate proposed constitutional changes before a referendum. The assembly has proposed replacing the existing references with non-discriminatory and gender-neutral language.


Voicing Support: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Announcement

Speaking on International Women's Day, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his support for the referendum, stating, "I am pleased to announce that the government plans to hold a referendum to amend our constitution to enshrine gender equality and to remove the outmoded reference to 'women in the home.'"


The Need for Change: Addressing Historical Imbalances

Varadkar emphasized the need for change, citing the disproportionate share of caring responsibilities that women and girls have borne for too long. He also highlighted the historical discrimination faced by women in both domestic and workplace settings, along with the prevalence of domestic and gender-based violence.


Broadening the Perspective: Critiques of Article 41.2

Critics of Article 41.2 argue that it perpetuates gender stereotypes and hinders women's freedom of choice. It has also been linked to discriminatory practices like the "marriage bar," which required married Irish women in certain public service jobs to leave their employment. The call for its amendment or removal gained momentum over the years, leading to the upcoming referendum.


Diverse Experiences: Impact on Working-Class Mothers

It's crucial to recognize that discussions surrounding Article 41.2 sometimes overlook the diverse experiences of Irish mothers. While it's often associated with middle-class mothers denied access to the workplace, it also affected working-class mothers who had no choice but to join the workforce. Their contributions to paid household labor were significant, and they often faced economic challenges.


Inequality in Welfare: A Core Issue

Article 41.2 had a direct impact on women's access to welfare payments. In many cases, women received only a fraction of what men did, despite being responsible for managing household expenses and caring for children. This inequality in welfare created hardships, particularly during economic downturns.


A Path to Equality: The Referendum's Significance

The impending referendum represents a significant step towards gender equality in Ireland. Removing or amending Article 41.2 is not merely symbolic but holds the potential to reshape the nation's commitment to equality, providing mothers from all backgrounds with equal access to opportunities.



About the Author:

Mihaela-Roxana Godinac is a BA, MA, MCL graduate and currently a PhD Candidate at the NOVA School of Law, in Lisbon, Portugal. Her main focus is the impact and integration of Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning in the legal industry (its ethical and legal implications, such as the potential for bias in algorithms, the issue of accountability, and the need for transparency). She is also currently studying for the FE1 exams. Outside of work she is an activist with many groups such as SpunOut, Volunteer Ireland and Foróige.


[Sources: Sky News](https://news.sky.com/story/ireland-to-hold-vote-on-womens-place-in-the-home-constitution-reference-12828734) | [The Irish Times](https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/social-affairs/2023/03/08/referendum-on-womans-place-in-the-home-to-be-held-in-november/) | [TheJournal.ie](https://www.thejournal.ie/referendum-gender-equality-november-6013134-Mar2023/) | [RTÉ Brainstorm](https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2023/0308/1201586-ireland-women-in-the-home-constitution-clause-1937-referendum/)


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