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Who’s who? The Yes and No camps in the March 8th family and care referendums

Here is how many of the most prominent organisations recommend you vote - and why

Voters will go to the polls on March 8th to vote in two referendums.

On March 8th, voters will be presented with two questions.

Would you like to extend the definition of the family beyond those relationships based on marriage?

Would you like to remove the clause in the Constitution that references a woman’s life and a mother’s duties in the home and replace it with a recognition of care within the family?

In the last week, the Yes and No camps have begun formulating their strategies for the next five weeks.

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But who exactly is in the Yes camp, and who is pushing for a No vote? The only political party yet to declare their intentions is Sinn Féin, but they are due to meet on Saturday to make a decision.

The Yes Side

The National Women’s Council

The National Women’s Council, comprising more than 190 member groups, is advocating a “Yes Yes” vote in the two referendums and the organisation’s director Orla O’Connor is leading the campaign.

Their position: “A Yes vote in the family referendum will value all families equally and ensure that every child is recognised as part of a family. Some 40 per cent of all births take place outside marriage today. A Yes vote will recognise and value those families, including one-parent families, unmarried parents and their children, and families where grandparents or other relatives are the primary caregivers to children. A Yes vote in the care referendum will recognise that a woman’s place is wherever she wants it to be. It will remove sexist language from our Constitution and replace it with wording that recognises the immense contribution of family care to our society.”

Family Carers Ireland

Catherine Cox, who is head of communications and policy at Family Carers Ireland, which supports hundreds of thousands of carers, will be leading their campaign.

Their position: “This referendum is a landmark opportunity for Ireland to formally recognise the invaluable role of family carers in our Constitution and make them visible. It is about acknowledging the immense contributions of those who dedicate their lives to caring for loved ones and ensuring they receive the support and respect they deserve. Voting Yes Yes would be a significant step towards ensuring better support and services for family carers. We believe it will lead to stronger policies that acknowledge the challenges family carers face and provide much-needed relief and assistance, potentially reshaping how care is valued in our society.”

Labour

Labour leader Ivana Bacik is leading the Yes campaign for her party.

Their position: “There’s no excuse for sexist stereotypes in the Constitution in 2024. The outdated language on women and mothers must be replaced with a real recognition of the value of care, often unseen and undervalued in society. This change would represent an important first step to real recognition of care and would send a strong message to the Government on the need for real, practical action and investment to support carers and people who need care,” said Ms Bacik.

Fine Gael

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys is leading the campaign for Fine Gael.

Their position: “It is important that our Constitution reflects the Ireland of today. For me, this is about recognising that all families are different. A single parent family is just as important as a married family. A woman’s place is wherever she wants it to be and should not be consigned just to the home. Caring is carried out by many people both young and old and our Constitution needs to reflect the important role they play,” said Ms Humphreys.

Fianna Fáil

Minister of State at the Department of Tourism Thomas Byrne has been appointed by party leader Micheál Martin to lead Fianna Fáil’s campaign.

Their position: “Fianna Fáil is seeking a Yes vote in both referendums. This will ensure that we remove an archaic concept on the role of women, recognise a more realistic concept of family and acknowledge that care within a family is provided by a variety of family members and that the State will strive to support this,” said Mr Byrne.

Social Democrats

Wicklow TD Jennifer Whitmore is leading the charge for the Social Democrats.

Their position: “As it stands, the only family recognised by our 1937 Constitution is a family based on marriage. We all know families who do not meet that description – and more than 40 per cent of children are born in non-marital relationships. These families are not second-class families and it is long past time they were recognised in our Constitution. This is an issue of equality and fairness for those families and their children. Many have said that the Constitutional reference to a woman’s place being in the home is sexist, and it is. Worse than that, the provision is also useless,” said Ms Whitmore.

People Before Profit

People Before Profit TD BrÍd Smith says her party will be reluctantly voting Yes in the forthcoming referendums.

Their position: Smith said that while it is “great to be ditching the sexist archaic language”, it is a “shame that there is no firm commitment to the women, children and men who are the carers in our homes and wider communities. The far right are using these referendums to lie and stir up fear about gender and equality and decent people should reject their failed rhetoric.”

Green Party

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman is leading the the Green Party’s campaignfor Yes and Yes votes.

Their position: At a Law Society event on Thursday, Mr O’Gorman said the wording and Constitutional view of women are outdated. He said the article in the Constitution that references a woman’s life and a mother’s duties in the home “has not delivered anything for any woman or any mother in this State”. The proposed changes around recognising care in the home would mandate this Government and future governments to further recognise the role that carers play, he said.

The No Side

The Iona Institute

David Quinn of the Iona Institute, which promotes the place of marriage and religion in society, said they would be recommending a No vote to its supporters in both referendums.

Their position: “We believe there is too much doubt about the meaning of ‘durable relationships’ in the case of the family referendum. With respect to the referendum on carers, we believe the aspiration to protect a mother from being forced out to work due to economic circumstances is still a good one and should be retained. Minister O’Gorman is correct to say a woman’s place is wherever she wants it to be, but the point is that a lot of mothers who would like to be at home with their children cannot do so because of economic pressures on them.”

Aontú

The party does not intend to spend any money, print any posters or leaflets or canvass for the referendums. But a spokesman for party leader Peadar Tóibín said the party has adopted a No position and that Mr Tóibín would be featuring on media debates on the issue.

Their position: “At the meeting of Aontú's Ard Comhairle this week it was broadly accepted that some of the current wording of these parts of our Constitution is archaic. Aontú would have supported a change to the wording of the Constitution, but we cannot support these changes. The Government’s amendments are exceptionally poorly written. The language in these amendments is unclear, confused and offers no material help or rights to families or carers,” Mr Tóibín said.

Family Solidarity

Family Solidarity is a Conservative group which was established following the 1983 referendum to introduce the Eighth Amendment, which banned abortion. The group campaigned for a Yes vote in order to place an equal right to life for the unborn and the mother. The Eighth Amendment was repealed in 2018. The group campaigned against the 1986 referendum to remove the ban on divorce.

Their position: “The two proposals have far-reaching and detrimental consequences for the fabric of Irish society. The redefinition of the family risks diluting the time-honoured values that have long been the cornerstone of our communities, and the removal of specific acknowledgments and protections of women’s roles in the home undermines the dignity and value of their contribution,” a spokesman said.

The Irish Women’s Lobby

The Irish Women’s Lobby, a relatively new feminist group, says they are an “alternative voice for the many women denied political and media representation”.

Their position: Spokeswoman Helen Duignan said the group believes that “neither amendment is in anyone’s interests, but particularly not those of mothers and carers, who are predominantly women. Both amendments were rushed through the Houses of the Oireachtas with no pre-legislative scrutiny and were not even in line with the views of the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee. Nowhere in the Constitution is it written that a woman’s place is in the home, as has been claimed by prominent NGOs and many in the media.”

The Countess

The Countess describes itself as a “grassroots campaigning organisation that advocates for women, children and LGB young people”. Their spokeswoman, Laoise de Brún, said that the Government and NGOs “are clamouring to convince us that it’s the wording of Article 41.2 that causes the inequality in households. Firstly, this is both incoherent and lazy, like so much policy nowadays, whereby the tricky work of tackling structural inequality is ignored in favour of moving around the deckchairs and, most importantly of all for this Government, virtue signalling. Holding the referendums on International Women’s Day is a masterclass in callow cynicism.”

Who's who in the Yes and No campaigns, Orbán bows to EU pressure

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