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Voting Yes in referendums will update, not negate, the constitutional and legal acknowledgment of women – Seery Kearney

1st March 2024 - Mary Seery-Kearney

The March 8th referendums aim to update—not erase—women’s representation in our Constitution, enhancing equality while preserving parental rights, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Mary Seery Kearney, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Privacy Rights, said: “These referendums are not about removing women from our Constitution or laws. Claims suggesting otherwise are false and misrepresent the intent and impact of the proposed changes.

“In our Constitution, ‘women’ is mentioned three times and ‘woman’ once, alongside six additional acknowledgments of gender, predominantly within the context of outlawing gender discrimination.

“The focal point of the proposed change on March 8th is the removal of the statement that describes a ‘woman’ and her ‘duties’ and ‘life within the home’. The Constitution also details the rights of parents, including mothers, in Article 42 regarding the education of their children.

“In terms of the rights of mothers and children, Ireland has previously held a referendum that significantly enhanced children’s rights within the Constitution, establishing it as one of the few countries globally with such explicit protections for children.

“It’s important to address misconceptions directly: the proposed Family and Care Amendments will not alter the provisions of Child Benefit either, which have been established under Part 4 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.

“To the contrary, Government has recently introduced enhancements, by extending Child Benefit to cover parents of children who are 18 and engaged in full-time education or training, or for those with disabilities unable to support themselves.

“These referendums clearly aim to refine, not erase, the representation of women within our legal framework, ensuring our Constitution reflects contemporary values without diminishing their rights as parents.

“Government has implemented a variety of policies and legislation aimed at improving the lives of women and children in Ireland. Notable initiatives include a 25% reduction in childcare fees with an additional cut expected, free contraception for women aged 16-31, publicly funded IVF treatments, a women’s health action plan, domestic violence leave, legislation currently coming through the Oireachtas to give legal rights to mothers whose children were born via surrogacy, and the creation of a new Domestic Violence Agency to address this issue.

“As we approach the final week before this vote, clarity on the facts is crucial. The intent behind these referendums is to update, not negate, the constitutional and legal acknowledgment of women. We are currently presented with is a distinct opportunity for equality in Ireland. I urge everyone to vote wisely, and to make a vote for equality. Vote yes and yes in the upcoming referendums on March 8th,” Senator Seery Kearney concluded.

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