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  • Writer's picturePippa Hackett

A Yes Yes Vote from Farm Families Will Modernise our Constitution

A family of 5 sit on a square bale in a field which has been recently cut.
Photo credit Philip Doyle.

The date for the upcoming referendums on Family and Care is this Friday, March 8th; which is also International Women’s Day. The date choice is intentional, because this referendum has women and their role at its heart. 


Both proposals are supported by the main political parties including Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Green Party, Sinn Fein, Labour and the Social Democrats.


For generations of women, the wording of the 1937 constitution was a value statement of a society in which women drew status from marriage – and in the case of mothers, where a wedding ring could mean the difference between freedom and incarceration. It was the backdrop to the marriage bar, which, from the 1920s until 1973 required Irish women in the public sector to leave their employment upon marriage, resulting in generations of women being denied a pension because they stopped work to care for their children. 


So it’s pertinent that these referendums will take place on International Women’s Day, and that we are afforded the opportunity to change our constitution to make it more reflective of a 21st Century Ireland. 


Firstly the Family referendum.

I know that among the farming community there has been considerable debate on the effect the referendum on Family may have on the family farm and succession rights, particularly with respect to ‘durable relationships’.


Let me be very clear – a Yes vote on 8th March will have no impact on our existing laws relating to taxation, inheritance or succession rights. It will not allow a person to claim that they are entitled to another person’s property on the basis that they were in a ‘durable relationship’.


Some have suggested that passing this referendum could result in farms being broken up. This is utter nonsense. Estate law has nothing to do with this. Inheritance rights around succession are not impacted by this referendum.


Somebody in a "durable relationship” does not have the same rights that a married couple has, because married couples have a whole range of rights set out in primary legislation that apply to married couples.


The anti-migration scaremongering that polygamous relationships will now be recognised is also untrue, because these relationships do not represent a “moral institution” in Irish law. 


What the referendum on Family does propose is to expand the definition of family (in Article 41 of the Constitution) to recognise those families based on relationships other than marriage. We all know people in these "durable relationships”, for example single mothers, and cohabiting couples with children. Some of us are these families. They form part of all of our wider networks of farming neighbours and communities. We owe it to these people – to value them in our constitution. A Yes vote on the family referendum will do that.



The second referendum on Care proposes the removal of text on the role of women in the home, and inserts a new Article 42B to recognise and value family caring; and that the State "shall strive” to support care within families. 


In relation to care, it’s clear that the current wording ascribes a certain place for women in Irish society - in the home. Yet I know so many men and women on farms across the country who share this caring role for their children or a loved one. 


So we want to change this, that’s why we are putting in an article about care, recognising that care is a job for everyone, men and women. 


But also importantly, we are putting in a new obligation on the State to do more to support care in a whole range of contexts, be that care in relation to  children, the elderly, or disabled people. It's putting in place an obligation that doesn't exist right now. 


And it’s time we gave these farm families in these situations, the recognition they deserve. 


So on March 8th, please Vote Yes and Yes, for Family, for Equality, and for Care; and for a constitution fitting of a modern, progressive and fairer Ireland. 



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