The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman have announced the Government’s intention to hold a referendum on gender equality as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality and the Special Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality.
It is envisaged that the referendum will take place in November of this year.
The Taoiseach said:
“For too long, women and girls have carried a disproportionate share of caring responsibilities, been discriminated against at home and in the workplace, objectified or lived in fear of domestic or gender-based violence.
“I am pleased to announce that the Government plans to hold a Referendum this November to amend our Constitution to enshrine gender equality and to remove the outmoded reference to ‘women in the home’, in line with the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality.”
Welcoming the announcement, Minister O’Gorman said:
“I commend the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality and the membership of the recent Special Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality for their work to advance these difficult and sensitive issues.
“My Department will very shortly be convening an inter-departmental committee to develop policy recommendations for consideration by Government, with a view to agreement by Government of wording for the proposed referenda.”
The decision to hold one or more referendums on this issue is in line with the Programme for Government commitment to respond to each recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality. Minister O’Gorman intends to publish the general scheme of one or more Referendum Bills by end June, so that the Electoral Commission can be briefed and the Bill or Bills can be considered by the Oireachtas.
The timeframe envisaged for this work is as follows:
- Establishment and convening of the inter-departmental group in March.
- Development of policy recommendations for consideration by Government and agreement by Government of wording for the proposed referenda, to be concluded by mid-May.
- The general scheme of the Referendum Bill(s), and any consequential legislation to be published by end June, along with preparation for briefing of the Electoral Commission.
- It is anticipated that the parliamentary process may take approximately five weeks, with enactment of the Referendum Bill(s) concluded by end September, after which the referendum campaign would commence.
- The referendum(s) would be held in November 2023.
Note for Editors:
The Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality, in its final report to the Oireachtas in June 2021, made recommendations for amendments to Articles 40 and 41 of the Constitution. These were that:
- Article 40.1 of the Constitution should be amended to refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination.
- Article 41 of the Constitution should be amended so that it would protect family life, with the protection afforded to the family not limited to the marital family.
- Article 41.2 of the Constitution should be deleted and replaced with language that is not gender specific and obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community.
A Special Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality was established and met from December 2021 to consider the Citizens Assembly recommendations together with the Government’s response. This Committee concluded its work and published its final report on 21 December 2022. In this report, the Committee set out its own recommendations and an action plan, including recommendations for a referendum or referendums on Articles 40 and 41 of the Constitution.