FLAC highlights concerns with the proposed ‘Care’ referendum wording and the need for information on the practical effects of the proposed ‘Family’ amendment

12 December 2023

  • FLAC has today written to the Taoiseach, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and relevant Oireachtas Committees outlining a number of concerns and issues in relation to the proposed referendums on ‘family’ and ‘care’.
  • In its preliminarily analysis of the referendum Bills (published today), FLAC highlighted the need for information around the practical effects of the proposed ‘family’ amendment – which may have very significant implications for law and policy in a number of areas.
  • FLAC also expressed concerns around the proposed new ‘care’ provision – which is unlikely to be interpreted as imposing any enforceable obligation on the State to support care that is provided in the home or otherwise. It may also be incongruent with the rights of persons with disabilities.
  • FLAC has called for adequate time to be afforded to the consideration of the Referendum Bills by the Oireachtas and for engagement with civil society.

Sinéad Lucey, FLAC Managing Solicitor, commented:

“We very much welcome the proposals to remove the Constitution’s offensive ‘women in the home’ provision, and the fact that the family amendment, if enacted, would mean that the constitutional protection of the family would no longer be limited to families based on marriage. However, in engaging with the Government in relation to the proposed referendums, FLAC has emphasised the need for clarity around what the amendments are seeking to achieve – so the best and most effective wordings can be put to the people, and so that the proposals can be understood by voters.

There is an urgent need for clarity on what the practical implications of the ‘family’ amendment and how the Government will give effect to it in legislation. The expanded definition of ‘family’ proposed is very significant and the Government should articulate their view on its scope and practical implications.

The Government must also address the significant concerns which arise in relation to the proposed ‘care’ amendment – the wording of which differs significantly from that which was proposed by the  by the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality and diverges from the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality.

It is unlikely that the new Article 42B proposed will be interpreted as providing any new rights to parents of children with disabilities seeking supports for their child in terms of their care at home or in school, or for people with disabilities or older people seeking to live independent lives.

Further, the addition of the proposed new Article 42B would create a situation where the only mention of people with disabilities in the Constitution is an implicit reference to them as the subject of family care. This may create a tension between the Constitution and the provisions of the UNCRPD (which is underpinned by the principle of autonomy for people with disabilities) and give constitutional expression to harmful stereotypes.”


Notes to Editors:

FLAC’s preliminary analysis of the proposed ‘family’ and ‘care’ amendments may be accessed here:

Flac (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights and equality organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice. As an Independent Law Centre, FLAC takes on a number of cases in the public interest each year and operates a Traveller Legal Service, Roma Legal Clinic and LGBTQI Legal Service. FLAC also operates a legal information and referral telephone line and a nationwide network of legal advice clinics where volunteer lawyers provide basic free legal advice.

Our analysis and recommendations are informed by our work representing clients. In our casework, FLAC has sought to rely on the Constitution (in particular, the Equality Guarantee and the provisions concerning the family) in cases concerning discrimination, housing and homelessness, and social welfare (including in relation to the entitlements of non-marital families). As a result, we are keenly aware of the limitations of the current constitutional provisions.

In addition to a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality, FLAC provided a number of submissions  and reports  to Government in relation to the potential constitutional amendments.