Two referendums set to be held on gender equality, says Taoiseach

Government gives green light for a €1.3bn new afforestation programme

Two referendums will be required to repeal the reference to women in the home in the Constitution, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed.

It also emerged that the wording for the amendments should be agreed by late September and that the referendum might take place in the new year rather than in November, as is currently planned.

Article 41.2 gives Constitutional recognition to a woman’s life within the home and also endeavours to “ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.

The Government has accepted the recommendation of a Citizen’s Assembly to repeal the Article – which is considered outdated and anomalous – and replace it with new definitions of family, home and equality.


The actual wording of the amendment has not yet been agreed, however, despite an undertaking it would be published in late summer, in advance of the November referendum.

Mr Varadkar also disclosed on Wednesday two referendums would be required to replace the current Article. He also said it was hoped the wording would be finalised at the end of this month. He gave no further details of what each referendum would entail.

It is understood that each will focus on different aspects of family and home but both will deal with the same “broad issue” and encompass equality.

Mr Varadkar said: “The intention of the referendum is to delete the very sexist language that exists in our Constitution talking about the role of women in the home and their duties in the home. We will replace that with wording that values care, and the value of family care in particular, and then also wording that recognises that there are many different types of families in Ireland now.”

He instanced families led by lone parents and those led by grandparents. “Not all families have to be based on marriage,” he added.

Mr Varadkar said the Government’s intention remained to hold the referendum at the end of November but he had to be cognisant of the newly formed Electoral Commission, which has said it needs three or four months to prepare properly for a referendum.

The Taoiseach, speaking after the Cabinet meeting in Avondale, Co Wicklow, said the wording of the referendum had not yet been agreed by the Government. He said he expected it by the end of September.

“The referendum is still scheduled for the end of November. What I am cognisant of is the CEO of the Electoral Commission, Art O’Leary has said. He said that they would need about three to four months to prepare for a referendum and get it right.

“It is the first time that the Electoral Commission will be running a referendum so I intend to meet with [Mr O’Leary] in the next couple of weeks just to tease that through.

“So, the Government decision to have the referendum at the end of November still stands and stands until such time as that may be changed,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said he was not going to ignore the view of the Electoral Commission. “We want this referendum to happen. We want it to happen sooner, rather than later,” he said.

The Government is also planning to hold a referendum on international patents that would allow companies defend patents across the European Union as a whole, rather than having to take separate cases in each EU State.

Meanwhile, the Government has given the green light for a €1.3 billion new afforestation programme in an effort to dramatically increase tree-plating in Ireland after years of decline.

The Cabinet gave final approval for the Forestry Programme to become operational and open to applications from Thursday.

The new programme provides for increased premiums of up to €1,142 per hectare, depending on the forest type, for planting trees, as well as extending the premium period from 15 to 20 years for farmers.

Others will receive premiums for 15 years. It offers a broad range of planting options and the rates are up to 66 per cent higher than the previous Forestry Programme.

Following the Cabinet meeting, Minister for Agriculture and Food Charlie McConalogue suggested it was the best-funded and most environmentally friendly forestry programme in the history of the State. He said it would help the State achieve its climate targets in this sector.

At a media conference after the meeting, Mr McConalogue said it was significant that the programme would finance and incentivise farm families to plan forestry on their own farms.

“We have increased the number of years during which farmers will be able to avail of forestry premia from 15 years to 20 years. It’s a really significant step change. I think it’s a balanced program. It also takes into account the need for the way we plan forests to integrate with the environment.

“It will really drive forward the forest industry in a way which is considerate to the environment around us, will provide an appropriate blend of tree types and also to provide space for nature.”

The Minister of State for Forestry Senator Pippa Hackett was unable to attend Cabinet due to a bereavement.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times