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Special Committee on Gender Equality debate -
Thursday, 3 Mar 2022

Recommendations of Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality: Engagement with Dr. Catherine Day

The committee is meeting in public session for the first time, which is very exciting for us all. No apologies have been received.

Before we begin, I emphasise members have the option of being physically present in the committee room or they may join the meeting via MS Teams but they may not participate in the meeting from outside the parliamentary precincts. If joining on MS Teams, those attending should mute their microphones when not making a contribution and use the raised hand function to indicate. Members and all in attendance are asked to exercise personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid.

Today's meeting will be in two sessions. For the first session, we have an engagement in public with Dr. Catherine Day to discuss the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality and when that is concluded we will go into private session to deal with committee business. For our first session, our engagement with Dr. Catherine Day, I extend a really warm welcome to Dr. Day, chairperson of the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality, who has a long and distinguished career of public service. Dr. Day is accompanied by Dr. Mary Clare O'Sullivan and Ms Lorraine Kavanagh from the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality secretariat. We are delighted all three of them can join us and that they could also be here earlier for the photograph on the Plinth. They are all very welcome.

Before we begin, I draw our guests' attention to an important notice on parliamentary privilege. Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Having done the preliminaries, we will proceed. We have received a video from the Citizens' Assembly secretariat to play for members. We will play that first, following which I will give Dr. Day the opportunity to make her opening statement and then open the floor to questions from members. Before we play the video, I am conscious we may well have, and I hope we do, many members of the Citizens' Assembly joining us remotely. We had certainly invited all those who had participated and given their time, energy and commitment to the Citizens' Assembly to follow online the proceedings of our first public hearing. We are really delighted we are having that engagement with members of the assembly. They are all very welcome.

We will proceed with the video.

Members viewed a video presentation.

Apologies to all those joining us online. We have had a technical problem with the playing of the video but we can recommence it now.

Members viewed a video presentation.

Each time I watch that video, I am struck, as all of us are, by the immense commitment and major public service given by the citizens who took part in the assembly. It is very impressive to see that come through their contribution to the assembly and to see the strength of the blueprint for change they presented us with through the Citizens' Assembly's 45 recommendations. I express the appreciation of all of us in the Oireachtas for the work of the citizens in their engagement with the Citizens' Assembly in this deliberative democracy process. At this time as we look at the awful things happening in Ukraine, we are all conscious of the major important of placing such a value on democracy and not taking that for granted in our work. Without further ado, I invite Dr. Day to make an opening statement and then we will have questions and answers, and engagement with members.

Dr. Catherine Day

I thank the committee for this opportunity to speak to its members today.

I welcome the launch of this important committee and wish it well in its work which will help to advance progress towards greater equality in Irish society.

I will start by saying a little about the citizens, many of whom the members saw on the video that was just played, because the work they did and the messages they are sending to the Oireachtas made up the work of the assembly. As members have just seen, the 99 citizens were a representative mix of the Irish population. They were a cross-section of women and men from different age and socioeconomic groups and different parts of the country. They brought their own life experience to the assembly. In their discussions they were informed by factual information about Ireland today, complemented by information on how other countries are dealing with equality issues. They heard from advocacy groups and from individuals who brought to life the realities of living in a country where many inequalities remain.

As members are aware, most of our work was done during the Covid crisis and, understandably, this brought the issue of care to the fore. In every session, we discussed the availability, quality, suitability and cost of care. There was also a strong focus on the way our society treats the people who care for us, and on how we need to do better by them.

The Covid crisis meant that most of our work was done online. We would have preferred to meet in person but the citizens rose magnificently to the challenge of working online and they accepted a more gruelling work schedule than had initially been proposed to them. They worked hard to be prepared in advance of each meeting so as to maximise their time for discussion. One gets the sense from the video that they wanted to send clear and action-oriented recommendations to the committee and to communicate a sense of urgency. They insisted during all their work on clear language to get their views across. As members just heard, to underline the seriousness of their recommendations, the assembly voted overwhelmingly that they are prepared to support and pay higher taxes to make a reality of our recommendations.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the members of the assembly on their dedication, commitment and hard work. I put on record our thanks to the secretariat, who did a fantastic job in organising and supporting the work and for whom the citizens had the highest possible praise and appreciation. We also thank the experts, whose input was invaluable to our work.

As members of the committee are aware, our work programme was based on an Oireachtas resolution of July 2019, with one exception. The resolution at the time made no reference to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence but we agreed early on to include it in our work because of its importance as a gender equality issue.

All of the inputs the assembly received and considered as part of its work are available on its website. As the recommendations are concise, the report we delivered to the Oireachtas gives context and background to explain what the assembly considered and the data on which some of the recommendations were based. In all, more than 500 recommendations were initially generated and these were then gradually reduced to the 45 recommendations that are before the committee. As the committee will be working on each of the recommendations, I will not take the time now to summarise them. I have provided a longer version of my opening statement that sets matters out in more detail and highlights the key areas. I will use the short time available to me to group the recommendations into blocs. I will start with the proposed changes to the Constitution and then address the proposed changes to our laws, as well as to policy and practice.

As regards recommendations for Constitutional change, a constitution sets out the values and principles that citizens accept to live by, so it is a very important document. To get to the truly gender-equal society the assembly to see, the citizens propose first to include the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination in the Constitution. More than 80% of the world's constitutions have such principles and it is recommended that we join them in that regard. The second suggestion for constitutional change is to extend the obligation of the State to protect family life to all families. At the moment, only the married family is given that protection. The citizens believe it should be extended to all families. The third area in which they recommend change is something that was already recommended by the Convention on the Constitution in 2013, that is, to delete Article 41.2 of the Constitution, often referred to as the “woman in the home” clause, and replace it with an obligation for the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community. This recommendation reflects the strong focus on care and caring throughout the work of the assembly.

Next, there are several recommendations suggesting ways to accelerate change through legislation. For example, the assembly recommends extending gender quotas to local, Seanad and European Parliament elections, as well as to the boards of publicly funded and private companies. Other recommendations would require changes to social protection legislation to make benefits gender equal and to improve pay and workplace conditions to reduce the gender pay gap. There are several recommendations for stronger legislation to combat hateful and abusive language and to hold technology and social media companies to account for their content.

Finally, many of the recommendations call for changes in current policy, such as by combatting gender stereotyping through education, for example. In considering how care is given, the citizens recommend improving low rates of pay and dealing with the lack of a proper pay and benefits structure for carers, the vast majority of whom are women. They recommend providing carers with a pay and benefits structure that rewards their skills and training, similar to those of teachers and nurses. They also call for structural change in how childcare is delivered and for an increase in the State share of GDP spent on childcare to 1% by 2030. That would bring Ireland into line with our UNICEF target. The recommendations also address care for older people and those with disabilities, emphasising that their choices and preferences should be reflected as much as possible in decisions on their care needs.

In dealing with domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, the assembly calls for support for victims and survivors. In this regard, they urge reform of the courts system, specialist training for judges and lawyers, and ensuring sufficient publicly funded beds, shelters and accommodation for victims and survivors. They also recommend that a Cabinet Minister should co-ordinate a national strategy to prevent and counter domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and the creation of a victims and survivors commissioner to be an independent advocate and voice for victims and survivors.

In some areas of our work, citizens were surprised to learn that timely data were not available. As all present are aware, one cannot make good policy without good data. The citizens recommend having a statutory body for gender equality led by a Cabinet Minister to ensure cross-government co-ordination on gender equality issues. Other recommendations include requiring gender impact assessment of policies and equality budgeting across all Government bodies and local authorities.

In conclusion, for me, it was a privilege, and a fascinating experience, to chair the assembly. Although we have made significant strides in the past ten or 20 years, we still have a long way to go before we can say we live in a truly gender-equal country. I sensed both impatience and frustration on the part of many who feel their voices are not heard on these issues of daily importance to their lives. The recommendations of the assembly show how these real-life issues can be addressed and I believe the members of the assembly broadly represent the views of the wider population on these issues. I am delighted that their work is now entering into the decisive phase where their elected representatives will examine their recommendations and decide how best to advance them. I thank the committee for the opportunity to appear.

I thank Dr. Day. We really appreciate that. She has set out clearly and concisely some very important background to the recommendations which the committee has decided it will regard as a clear blueprint for a path to gender equality in Ireland. We are considering how to implement those recommendations, rather than reopening the substantive policy questions, because they are so clearly thought out. I again thank Dr. Day and commend her, her team and the citizens on their work.

I invite colleagues to ask questions or make comments. We will have a first round and try to keep it brief to ensure everybody gets in.

I thank Dr. Day, her colleagues and the Citizens' Assembly for the time, effort and dedication they put into developing the report. It is something to behold when a resolution is passed and it leads to a report of a Citizens' Assembly that then comes through to the Oireachtas.

What really struck me when I first read the report was the sense of urgency around the demands of the assembly members and their ask of us as Members of the Oireachtas. Many of the strands discussed have been discussed at plenty of fora heretofore. Unfortunately, however, we have not seen the necessary action that needs to come afterwards to deliver gender equality.

I have two questions. With regard to the statutory body to oversee the work, how does Dr. Day envisage it operating in delivering change? Second, when she was framing the discussions for the Citizens' Assembly, was there something akin to a cost-benefit analysis that led to the recommendations being put in place?

Dr. Catherine Day

What the citizens have in mind regarding the statutory body is the permanent monitoring of how gender equality is delivered in the country, going from data to making public the results or lack thereof. They felt it should not be something transitory and that this is an ongoing issue. They felt there should be a body responsible for following up on commitments made and policy decisions taken because, very often, good decisions are taken and they peter out for various reasons.

On the question on the cost–benefit analysis, the group was a group of citizens, not a policy group. It did have access to quite a lot of data, studies, etc., but it was not in its remit to carry out a cost–benefit analysis of the recommendations it was making. We did discuss that. The group fully realised it would be for the Civil Service and Government to carry out a cost–benefit analysis if recommendations were taken up. The citizens were conveying to the Oireachtas their views on what they think needs to be changed. The Deputy picked up on the issue of urgency and pace, but it would be impossible to ask 100 randomly chosen citizens to do that kind of technical work. What they are conveying is their desire for change and the areas where they would like to see change, but they are fully conscious that, should the recommendations be accepted, there will be a lot of work to turn them into concrete realities, so to speak. However, they have cut through to the heart of the matter on several issues and are very clear about what they are calling for.

I call Senator Pauline O'Reilly, Vice Chairman of our committee.

The delegates are all very welcome. I wish at the outset to say what has been said by others previously but it is important that we all mention the citizens who gave of their time. As Dr. Day said, their commitment was different from the one they expected at the start. In some regards, it was harder than if they had been coming together. I acknowledge all their work and, as is clear from the video, their passion for it.

To what extent is it fair to say the outcomes were affected by the pandemic and the circumstances in which the citizens found themselves? Prior to the pandemic, constitutional change concerning the provision on woman's place in the home was examined. It felt a little like there was a juggernaut coming for one particular section of the Constitution, which I believe we all feel should be removed, but without eliminating all references to care. That, for me, was very significant in the findings of the Citizens' Assembly. Having been a witness on this very issue at a joint committee before my having been elected, I was concerned that the reference to care would be removed and that we would have nothing in our Constitution that would refer to the clear importance of care and community to Irish people and those living in these islands.

Dr. Day might like to comment on that.

Dr. Catherine Day

The impact of Covid was most strong in the emphasis on care in all the discussions of the citizens. Many were surprised to learn about the low rates of pay and the lack of structural employment conditions. Throughout, they were very interested in comparisons with other countries, including in respect of childcare, for example, which in Ireland is largely delivered by the private sector. Ireland is very much an outlier by comparison with other EU and OECD countries.

What was interesting about the process was that everybody has an experience of care, whether it is giving it or receiving it at various stages in life. The format of the assembly allowed people to relate personal experience to the data to determine whether that experience was reflected in the data. Regarding the strong emphasis on care and the desire to change Article 41.2, we offered the assembly the options of maintaining the provision, simply deleting it, and deleting it and replacing it with something else. The overwhelming majority opted for deleting and replacing. We had much discussion on what the article should be replaced with. It was very clear that people wanted to have an obligation for the State to provide care in the home and the wider community, but citizens were also conscious that there are limits to the resources of the State. That is why, in their recommendation, they would like the State to be obliged to take reasonable measures. That shows the depth of the discussion and understanding of the citizens. That is just one illustration. There are several more detailed recommendations on caregiving and care-receiving. The discussion on constitutional change was very emblematic of the wider focus that citizens had during the assembly meetings. It was certainly heightened by the fact that we were all living through the Covid pandemic.

Absolutely. I thank Dr. Day.

I thank the delegates for attending and, more important, for overseeing and compiling an incredible report. I was privileged to have been a member of the Convention on the Constitution in 2013. I know what the environment feels like; it is magic. It was great to witness the pride and commitment, which others have mentioned, but it was also great to witness the interest that ordinary Irish people have in policy. Too often, people dismiss Irish people as uninterested in politics. They absolutely are interested. What was very clear from the opening remarks was that change is too slow. Dr. Day talked about the impatience and frustration of the members. I do not believe they could match our frustration and impatience because we have been talking about this forever. That there are 45 recommendations shows just how much we have to do, even if we have been talking about it forever.

What are the obvious obstacles to implementing the 45 recommendations? In Dr. Day's opinion, considering that the citizens and members of this committee believe change is too slow, what is the acceptable timeframe in which people in the assembly and wider community will see us taking action? We are all sick to the back teeth of talking about it. We all know some of what can be done. The obstacles are obvious to us but we just do not seem to be able to get over the wall to fix them. Could Dr. Day articulate what she believes to be the obstacles so they may be clarified and focused on? What is an acceptable timeframe in which to honour the work and commitment of the Citizens' Assembly?

Dr. Catherine Day

I thank the Senator. That is a very big question. The obstacles are numerous. They range from a lack of thinking about the issues to stereotyping and more narrow resistance to certain changes. Let me use the example of gender quotas, because it is often a divisive issue. During the meetings of the assembly, we saw people's ideas evolving. At the beginning, a certain number of people believed quotas were not a good idea and would lead to tokenism or problems of one kind or another, but what influenced most of those who were initially reluctant to favour gender quotas was the realisation of how long it would take if we did not take action. The recommendations build on what already exists. While there are gender quotas for parties for national elections, why not start where most people enter politics, which is the local elections? That is one example that I can give.

Other obstacles include, perhaps, the perception that some of the recommendations would be expensive to implement. Although we had neither the requirement nor the capacity to carry out a cost–benefit analysis, it is very significant that the citizens voted in favour of paying higher taxes to get what they are asking for, but they are calling for structural change in certain areas.

I mentioned that Ireland has contracted out much of the childcare responsibility and it is the same in other areas of care. Citizens are interested in a structural change to have the State being more responsible in this context, as it is in many other European countries.

At the same time as the members of the assembly were calling for wide-ranging changes, I also felt that they understood that it would take time to do so in certain areas. I gave the example in my opening remarks of meeting the UNICEF target of 1% of GDP to be spent on childcare by 2030. Some people felt that was too far away but others believed, given that spending on childcare was only 0.33% of GDP when we had the assembly, that we should have a reasonable timeframe to ensure that change could happen.

The important message coming from the assembly members is that they want the change to start now. Those involved in previous assemblies will have experienced this aspect for themselves. People are reasonable but they want to see change start because they can see that it will come once it starts. It will be possible to do some things much faster than others. Legislation will also be coming from the EU concerning areas such as the participation of women on company boards and so on. Therefore, there will be different ways to pick up on these recommendations, if the State wants to. Some can be implemented quickly, while others will take a long time to reach the delivery stage. There is a wealth of information on change in the work the citizens have done, but also pressure for such change to occur.

I thank Dr. Day. I call Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

I thank Dr. Day and her colleagues for coming in today and for the work they have done, as well as the citizens who did their work with Dr. Day and who spent so much of their time and thoughts on this great project. We appreciate having this exceptionally detailed blueprint to be able to progress. I am struck by the breadth of recommendations and the range of areas they cover, from constitutional change to the granularity of State pensions in the context of addressing the legacy of the marriage bar. It is a comprehensive and whole-of-society examination and such important work.

While watching the video this morning, two contributions stuck with me. Dr. Day has had the benefit of spending time with the citizens and taking them from setting out the project to listening to how they have come to the thoughts and expressions they have had. I am interested in the thought process at work along that journey the assembly members have gone on to reach such comprehensive and strong recommendations.

Two comments from the video we showed at the outset stuck with me. The first one was from a gentleman who remarked that the members of the assembly had been challenged in their perceptions and in what they thought. Another gentleman said that what the members of the assembly had done was to set out a new view for Ireland as a gender-equal society. Will Dr. Day tell us some more about the background and the stories behind those comments? For the benefit of the committee and the people watching, what were those people referring to? Dr. Day has had the opportunity to understand that journey, but will she outline that process a little more for us? What were the challenges in perceptions? What are the practical details of this new view of Ireland that the citizens have seen for the future?

Dr. Catherine Day

It was a fascinating process. We had the benefit of factual data and citizens were continuously asking for comparisons to be made with other countries. They wanted to position Ireland relative to other countries. We also had strong and clear presentations from advocacy organisations, which explained where they thought the problems were and what should be changed. What probably had the most powerful impact on the citizens, however, were individuals who came and told their stories. I refer to listening to people working in the shadows in the healthcare sector, for example, and to single-parent and same-sex families about how badly those parents felt their children were treated in the context of not being treated equally with other children just because those parents were not married or were in different relationships. All these things had a major impact on people.

Another important aspect was the opportunity to take in the information. We had to pre-record all the presentations and send them out because the process was ongoing during the Covid-19 pandemic. That allowed people to have time to watch them at home and perhaps to watch them a second time as well. The members of the assembly also had time to talk with each other and to challenge each other's views, but always in a respectful way, as they said. Gradually, then, they had the opportunity to come to the conclusions they did. I would think many people look back now and realise how much their views moved throughout the process.

Therefore, it was a combination of getting the information and the comparisons with other countries, and then hammering it out in small discussion groups with other citizens, who may have had other life experiences and different views. It was then a matter as well of the members of the assembly wanting to come together to agree the things they all wanted to recommend to the Oireachtas. It was a fascinating process to watch that process. It was the same for people coming to new views. We are all busy in our lives and if people are not working in these areas, then they do not always necessarily see the bigger picture. It was being confronted with the different reality of other people's lives that made people open their minds and see that new and different ways of doing things were possible.

Dr. Catherine Day

Yes, very much so.

I call Deputy Bríd Smith.

I thank Dr. Day and her team for coming in and for the work they have done. I also thank all the citizens who worked hard on this process. I think we would all agree that the use of the citizens' assembly process in recent years has proved to be interesting and productive. This is the third committee I have sat on as a consequence of a Citizens' Assembly. The first was the Citizens' Assembly on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and the second was the Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change. We learn so much going through it and so much about the process. It seems much more democratic and thorough than the ordinary day-to-day things we do in here. It is also interesting that many people are watching what is going on.

This assembly got much publicity, and rightly so, when it issued its results. To take an example, and this is in Dr. Day's report, concerning working life and workers' rights as a gender issue, this assembly has recommended increasing the minimum wage to align it with the living wage, establishing a legal right to collective bargaining, increasing the resources of the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, to make it more effective, and introducing a statutory right to reasonable access to flexible working. Was there any discussion of how those aspects were important to the members of the assembly? Equally, was there any discussion of why successive Governments have failed to achieve all these aspects? I ask that because if these are issues for the Citizens' Assembly making these recommendations, then surely it occurred to the members of the assembly to wonder what the barriers are to these things happening. These are all issues that successive Governments have failed to implement or, in some cases, blocked legislation on. Collective bargaining is one example in that regard. Was there any discussion of that aspect?

The other issue I will ask Dr. Day about is the question of housing as a gender-based violence issue. The two statements emphasised the need for sufficient funding to be made available for shelters and accommodation for victims and survivors and everything else required in this area. The impact of the housing crisis, however, is extremely significant for people experiencing domestic violence. My cousin recently retired from Women's Aid, and I was fascinated when she told me that she did not have to retire and that she loved her job. What made her leave her job, however, was the housing crisis. She felt frustrated each time she went to court to support women, because when she came out of the process the result was that she had to drive those women back into the arms of their abusers and that was because of nothing else but of a dearth of accommodation and housing and the lack of a permanent solution. The Istanbul Convention recommends not just shelter spaces but a permanent solution to accommodation in this regard. Therefore, did the assembly members at any stage discuss the question of the gender-based nature and the violent gender-based nature of the housing crisis?

Dr. Catherine Day

On the first set of issues around the minimum wage and the living wage, the discussion on all of that came about again because of the Covid-19 crisis and the realisation of how much we depend on the people who care for us and from learning that, on the whole, they are not well paid and do not have the kinds of conditions of employment that many other people take for granted etc. Again, there was a strong desire to place care more at the centre of our society and to address the resultant consequences of doing so.

As Deputy Carroll MacNeill mentioned, this is a whole-of-government set of recommendations because the citizens were not bound by the portfolio of this Department or Minister. Rather, they were considering how they wanted our society to change. They wanted people to have a decent wage so that they could live properly, they wanted families to have more, they wanted people to have a better work-life balance, etc. They were considering the matter from the receiving end, as it were, of how they lived their lives or how they and those closest to them had difficulties in interacting with what was and was not available. They wanted to be able to pinpoint certain areas, and this is why the recommendations are so focused. They did not want to write about the diagnosis. Rather, they wanted to give some prescription as to what could be changed, and these were the points that seemed to them to be the most relevant.

The issue of housing arose acutely when we were discussing domestic, gender and sexual-based violence. The Istanbul Convention has been mentioned at this meeting. The citizens want it to be fully respected and implemented. The question of shelters and accommodation arose in that context. The issue of housing more generally arose a few times but we already had such a large agenda set out for us in the resolution establishing the assembly that we felt we could not go into it. Deputy Smith is right, though, in that there is a strongly gendered dimension to housing. The citizens wanted sufficient shelters and accommodation across the country, not just in limited areas. That is something to be delivered urgently and, in the scale of things, is not a significant expenditure. It is a question of wanting to do it.

I thank Dr. Day for her stewardship of this process and for how much she has centred the citizens' voices. Their recommendations are the centre of what she has brought to us. This committee regards their recommendations as our centre point in our work - not a jumping off point, but the core manifesto.

I was struck by Dr. Day's reference to how the 500 recommendations had been reduced to 45. As such, much of what was chosen had to do with choices about what not to do as well as what to do. I am interested in that process.

I wish to discuss the constitutional element. Will Dr. Day comment on the two recommendations relating to Article 41? Care rather than carers is centred in one of them, where it is an active obligation rather than a passive or symbolic recognition. The other recommendation is important and it is good to see it being placed centre stage, namely, the definition of the family and recognising all forms of family. This is important in terms of unmarried families and, of course, lone-parent families, which represent many of the families in Ireland. Will Dr. Day comment on the choices the citizens made in ensuring that these recommendations were made? Was there a feeling that the two were complementary and needed to be addressed together?

Dr. Day spoke about a sense of urgency as regards changes in childcare and that it was not about doing more, but about being willing to do things differently.

Something that struck me in the recommendations was that the citizens knew that their assembly would end, the State would go on and other things would happen. They seem to have made so many thoughtful recommendations to try to address the power imbalance within the State. They have almost tried to put the instruments of the recommendations' implementation into the recommendations themselves. The recommendations refer not only to the implementation bodies and power balances in terms of women in leadership sections, but also to collective bargaining. I would be interested in the extent to which collective bargaining was recognised as a women's power imbalance issue, with a need to ensure a right to collective bargaining as a means of strengthening women's hand and redressing the power imbalance.

Dr. Catherine Day

The focus on the Constitution is about setting the principles. Since putting principles into the Constitution makes them actionable, it is not just about grand words. It is also about giving people a basis on which to challenge if the State does not deliver on those principles. That is why I mentioned the term "reasonable measures". The citizens were not asking for the moon, but for a commitment, which would then be followed through on in a reasonable way.

On the question of family, many citizens were surprised to learn that families were treated differently by the State, including the courts, because of what was in our Constitution. Part of the discussion the citizens were having was about making the rules catch up with the reality of the society we live in today, which is different from when our Constitution was drafted. The Senator has picked up clearly on the idea of doing differently, in that people do not necessarily want more money to be spent on something, but for the structures to change and the way that the State reacts to be different. That is why there is what could in other circumstances be described as a boring bit at the back where it talks about data gathering, gender budgeting and impact assessments. That is how the policy gets through. There are many examples. If there is only one gender on a committee designing a policy, it will miss out on many relevant views and not take them into account, and then a great deal of expensive retrofitting will have to be done afterwards to address problems that should have been picked up had there been a more gender-balanced input at the start.

From my interpretation of what the citizens were working on, they did not want this to be a flash in the pan. That is why they wanted a Minister at Cabinet level to co-ordinate policy across the Government because modern policymaking is complex and it is easy to focus on one element and ignore the bigger picture. In terms of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, they wanted a voice for the victims and for this to be taken into account in the reform of the courts and the specialist training of judges and lawyers in order to redress some of the imbalance that they picked up on.

Issues like collective bargaining and the minimum wage go into the world of work. The citizens discussed the fact, which I believe they thought was no coincidence, that in areas that were heavily feminised, the pay, conditions and general quality of the work seemed to be less good than they were in other areas where there was a more equal gender balance. They tried to find ways of correcting the balance and not have a weaker cohort just because of gender issues.

Like the other members of the committee, I thank Dr. Day for her work and, through her, the work done by the citizens as well as the staff that supported them in making their decisions. I can imagine the magic of being in a room in a citizens' assembly, the conversations that happen as the meetings break up, the arguments continuing and so on. Some of those opportunities were not there in this assembly. On the other hand, many people were probably juggling childcare during this process and might not have been able to participate had the Citizens' Assembly had been run in person. Perhaps we should consider the benefits of the online process. This would be an interesting piece of work on the development of future citizens' assemblies. That is a separate matter, though.

I will focus on three matters, the first of which is the inclusion of a specific reference to gender equality in Article 41. There has been some discussion by this committee on that matter. I would like Dr. Day to help us understand why a specific reference to gender equality was developed by the citizens and how it related to the other constitutional changes that were recommended.

The second matter is the issue of gender quotas. I find the idea of its extension to local government interesting. A far more natural way of introducing gender quotas initially would have been to do so at local government level first.

In the same way that the majority of people who end up as Deputies or Senators will have spent some time in local government beforehand, perhaps if we had done that, it would have ironed out some of the issues we saw within parties later on. Nevertheless, I can understand people's appetite for change, which is why we went straight to Oireachtas level.

I have some concerns about extending it to local government level, whereby we might erode progress. As an example, when I first ran in the local elections in 2004, there were no women on the ballot paper. When I left Dublin City Council, we had just about tipped 50-50 in respect of gender. In one party, there were no male members, while in another, there was only one male member, and that was the decision of the electorate to elect more women. My fear relates to the fact politics is not about getting elected just once. I was a different councillor in my second term compared with my first. Politics is about embedding change. My worry is that if we introduce quotas now, while it will happen in only a small number of cases, we could effectively end up with a male quota. It is not about electing individuals of a particular gender for just one term, but, rather, about embedding a gender balance over time. How can we balance that against the decision not to introduce affirmative action, given that we want to retain the accountability of being able to elect other politicians after the end of the term, as is the electorate's democratic choice? Do our guests have any insight into affirmative action versus quotas and the impact on local government of introducing quotas over terms?

I am excited by some of the issues relating to childcare, including the idea not to allow transferability in order to develop the sharing of responsibilities. That was unexpected to me and I would be interested to hear our guests flesh that out. They spoke about childcare that would be publicly funded but not necessarily publicly provided. Will they offer some insight into that? There is also the idea of the public governance of childcare, regardless of how it is provided.

Dr. Catherine Day

On the benefits of online sessions versus meeting in person, Dr. Jane Suiter carried out research on the assembly and her report goes through, in interesting detail, the benefits and downsides of working online. Most of the citizens would still say they would prefer to have met in person, but they all agree it worked online. A mix would probably be good. We were fortunate to have a first weekend in person, which began to create a feeling of working together, and that made it easier for people to continue that feeling online. There were many other benefits. Obviously, people would have had to travel long distances if it had been in person all the time, and there was also a cost saving. The online voting was very efficient. It was beneficial to have the presentations pre-recorded and to keep them short, in line with the advice we got from experts in education. Where they had to be lengthy, we broke them into two. It was a different way of making presentations. What changed most was that people came to their computer screens for each session having had time to think about the issues and the points they wanted to make. The debates got going faster, therefore, and they were probably deeper and more informed.

On inserting an explicit commitment to gender equality in the Constitution, that was a fairly natural outcome of people wanting to say, in all the ways they could, that they want to have a gender equal society and Ireland is not that yet, so let us provide for it in the Constitution. It is also the top of the pyramid of how we set out our laws. Moreover, something like 80% or more of other constitutions contain such a commitment. It is a way of sending a clear message at the highest level. If it is to go in, it will have to come from a referendum of the people, which is another way in which it would regarded as having been determined at the highest level.

On the issue of quotas, some of the matters the Deputy raised were discussed. Many of the recommendations from the assembly will end up having something to do with women and their lives, but the citizens were very balanced in that regard and wanted to say the quotas should apply both ways. In areas where there is a predominance of women, therefore, we should think about having a sufficient balance on the male side as well. We had a discussion on the idea of affirmative action versus quotas, and it was thought that affirmative action would take too long and the citizens want to see change now. They want to force it. If we ever get to a more gender-balanced representation in public life, perhaps we could take away the need for quotas because we would have achieved it and people would see it has worked. The citizens want a quota of those on the ballot paper. It is ultimately the electorate who will decide whom to vote for. Nobody is suggesting we should have to vote for a certain percentage of women or men, but we should have that opportunity and it will have to be legislated for because it will not come quickly enough if it is not.

On childcare, there are many detailed questions to be asked about how to implement the recommendations, and we did not have the time or the capacity to go into them. The recommendation is carefully worded to say it should be a State-funded and regulated system that leaves room for some private sector delivery as well, bearing in mind that Ireland is coming from very high levels of private sector delivery. Again, there was the concept of it taking time but of the citizens nonetheless wanting to see the change begin to happen. In that and other areas, the call is for a change in the structure, even if it takes time.

To clarify, in regard to Article 40.1, I was not asking whether there should be reference to gender equality but rather why it should be there. Would including such a reference oblige us to have a hierarchy of different grounds of equality if we mentioned only one, or is the pure principle of equality in Article 41 enough to guarantee the right? The committee has discussed this and we would like to hear a little more about the assembly's decision to include the reference and the motivation for doing so.

Dr. Catherine Day

With the exception of the experts who advised us, none of us is a constitutional expert. We looked for the obvious place to put it, and Article 40.1 states, “All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law”, so it seemed to be the natural place. Even so, I would not say it would have to be there. There might be a need for some constitutional legal advice. The citizens were not really trying to determine whether that part of the Constitution that guarantees individual rights would be the right place to put it. It would matter more to them that it would be in the Constitution rather than that it be in a particular place.

Deputy McAuliffe had a question also about the other grounds of discrimination, which we have discussed as a committee. There was the concept of placing a specific reference to gender into the equality guarantee, as recommended by the citizens in their first recommendation. Some members of the committee have articulated the view there might be other grounds of discrimination that might also be worthy of consideration for inclusion in a more expanded equality guarantee. We are conscious that our remit relates to gender equality, as did that of our guests, and this may not have arisen in the assembly's deliberations. If it did, did the citizens have a view on it?

Dr. Catherine Day

There was quite a lot of discussion about discrimination and its multiple forms. There are different kinds of minorities, including the Traveller community but not stopping there, who already suffer from the inequalities gender, multiplied by other inequalities. That is why the recommendation is to insert something that refers to gender equality and non-discrimination more generally, which would cover all of that. Given the citizens were not drafting the legal wording, they wanted to pare down the recommendation to the essence of what they would like to see in a future legal text.

That is very helpful. Dr. Day has given us an insight relating to that clause that, perhaps, we missed in our discussions.

It is striking that in the video the citizens referred to intersectional discrimination. It is not just about gender but gender crossed with all sorts of other grounds of discrimination.

I am conscious that Deputies Hourigan and Smyth are with us. Have they any comments or questions before I invite others to contribute?

I will ask a couple of quick questions. I am mindful that we have work ahead of us and it is in that context I am asking these questions. I will return to the issue of collective bargaining because it is an incredibly important recommendation and one that could easily be lost in the mix. It gave rise to a question I have around where the recommendations intersect with other work being done, for example, the work of the Low Pay Commission, work on the living wage or work on pensions. In the context of the work we have to do in the next few months, and the new Housing Commission, I am interested in where the work of the Citizens' Assembly intersected with particular bodies or commissions. What reports, whether they related to State bodies, semi-States bodies or NGOs, particularly came up or were part of the discussion?

Dr. Catherine Day

As I said, all of the citizens' input is available on the website, including, for example, presentations from the advocacy part of the assembly's work. Having had factual data, largely coming from the academic world, citizens then had interactions with advocacy organisations. Those advocates pointed the way to citizens as to what was or was not working. This then went into the citizens' discussions. The recommendations the Deputy just highlighted were the ones that made the cut into the final 45.

This was the outcome of citizens saying they were not happy with the situation where so many people, predominantly women, are so badly treated in comparison to the rest of the workforce and how to fix that. That is where things such as the minimum wage versus the living wage came about and the idea of the right to collective bargaining, where rather than people individually trying to improve their situation being able to do so collectively, all came out. We also heard input from, for example, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, IBEC and the Small Firms Association about how they would do it to try to take different points of view into account. It came out of all that discussion that citizens felt the need for a right to collective bargaining would be an important way to take the agenda forward.

Okay, but was there a particular group that was more meaningful? We can see them on the website, but in the context of our future work was there a particular group that had more influence on the conversation than anyone else?

Dr. Catherine Day

No, I do not think so. I am looking at Dr. O'Sullivan to see if she has a different view. There was always an effort in all the discussions to try to have balance and not to present just one view, which is why we heard from the trade unions and the employers. That then enabled the citizens to say that they saw a way through, and where they would like to go, between all the different arguments.

I will follow up with a question on care, which has come up already. I take the point that there is a large part of the workforce where many of the groups that provide care in this country are often more largely staffed by women. Unpaid work in the home is more often provided by women. During the formation and the sessions of the Citizens' Assembly, how did it find a balance between what is paid and unpaid care? I say that as somebody who was a carer in receipt of carer's allowance, for example, in the home. Now, as a working parent, I am providing unpaid care. From reading the recommendations, we are trying to get to a place where paid care is considered a serious profession that is paid fairly and yet leave enough space in the system for people to be at home if they choose. We also need to recognise the care of carers who are, in effect, often doing 24-hour, serious work, almost to a professional level, where they are giving medical attention to somebody. How do we navigate between giving the right space to unpaid care, and care people would choose to maintain as unpaid care, and the professionalisation of care?

Dr. Catherine Day

The Deputy has very correctly identified the fact that choice and individual choice was an important part of citizens' discussions. As the Deputy said, the professionalisation of care and treating it as a profession, with all that goes with that, is a very important point. The other part, however, was about people who give care in the home and the question of whether they should or could be paid for it and what kind of conditions there could be. That is why some of the recommendations consider matters that are very technical, such as the level of income disregard, for example, or the fact of being able to work more hours outside the home while still giving care in the home and having that recognised. We then get down to very individual choices. Again, this will not necessarily be easy to put into legislation, but the challenge will be to try to provide for clear choices so people can understand what their choices are, and will be able to make those choices that they should have.

As I said, everybody in the assembly had some experience of care, either giving it or receiving it. We also had several people who were actively involved in the healthcare sector who were able to pinpoint areas and explain to the other citizens what it meant. For example, we also looked at the whole question of respite provision for carers and whether it was real respite. They picked up on the fact of parents having to stay on-site, which meant they did not really get a break. In some cases, we went down to very personal details, but that then helped others to understand that we need a different approach to care tailored to the individual needs of the person receiving the care and the family members giving it. One size will certainly not fit all. We will have to have something that is more moderated, according to the degrees of need and the choices to be made.

The other point made concerned the dignity of people receiving care and, as far as they are competent and capable of expressing their views, saying what they want. Another point that comes to mind is there is a cliff edge when a younger person receiving care reaches the age of 18. The citizens thought this was horrific. People should not have to go through the whole cycle again. Parents and adult children should not have to fight for what a child had up to the age of 18, if they still need it the day after their 18th birthday or their 35th birthday and so on. It was very personal because people brought their real lived experiences to the discussion.

Before I run out of time, does Dr. Day believe the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly will align well with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the implementation of a more rights-based model for disability?

Dr. Catherine Day

It is not an area of my expertise, but certainly the advice and information that was given would seem to go in that direction and be supported by it.

That is very helpful. I am conscious we have had a full first round, but before I ask questions I invite others who might like to come in again.

If the Chair wants to ask her questions, that would be appropriate in the first round.

I will do so if colleagues are happy with that. If anyone wants to come back in, they can do so. I will touch on three points, all arising from the discussion we have had and questions from colleagues. A number of members spoke about the constitutional change in those first three recommendations. As a committee, we have taken a decision to follow the chronology of those three recommendations and start our considerations with constitutional change. We will embark on our public hearings relating to those first three recommendations first, commencing next week with some of the NGOs involved, and over nine months we will conduct our deliberations in a modular fashion through the other recommendations.

On the constitutional change recommendations, we have had some private engagement already with different experts and others, including Dr. Tom Hickey and Dr. Laura Cahillane. Some of our focus has been on whether those three recommendations should best be seen as part of a package of constitutional change. Are they three stand-alone referendums? Is that one way of looking at them? Is it better to see them as interconnected, which they are?

Which is the better way for us to approach the implementation of those recommendations? This is really the question for us. Obviously, this is a matter for us, but in Dr. Day’s view, is it preferable to see them as being embarked upon as a series of three separate referendum propositions, or one? Does it then beg the question as to whether a completely revised Article 41 in particular, or some sections of Article 41, would be appropriate? These are some of the questions that we will be grappling with. We would love Dr. Day’s view on that.

Second, Deputy Clarke asked about the cost benefit analysis. Clearly, that is a matter again for us. We are looking at how we implement these 45 recommendations. Could Dr. Day could say more about the important comment made in the video by one of the citizens about the willingness to pay higher taxes? Was that considered in any detail? To what extent did citizens consider how much higher, for example? We will have to look at this in more detail, with the benefit of departmental input and from the Government.

Finally, and Deputy McAuliffe touched upon this, there was a recognition by the citizens in the report and in their comments that this is not just about addressing inequalities that are suffered by women. It is also about looking at situations where men may suffer discrimination, or where there is a gender inequality against men. Most of those 45 recommendations relate to addressing historic inequality that women have endured. Is there any area where there was more focus on the need to address an imbalance against men, where men are suffering or where they are in a less equal position? Could Dr. Day comment on that? Deputy McAuliffe gave an interesting example of particular councils. Of course, gender quotas are gender neutral in their formula and we currently have the Dáil gender quota. I would love to know if there was any other area the recommendations covered where that was an issue, where it was about addressing an imbalance from a different perspective.

Dr. Catherine Day

It is a difficult question on the Constitution. We did not discuss it in that level of detail. If one wants to send a clear message about proving gender equality, then one would be inclined to take them as a package. This is because individually they are important, and they could be separate. However, if one wanted to make a big statement about moving the gender equality dial, and I think you would take them together. However, you would have to think carefully and weigh it up. For example, if one were accepted and two were not, would the whole lot have to be taken together? Even in taking them as a package, it would be important to find a way to have an individual decision on each one. This would be so that if for some reason, one was less popular than the others, you would not end up losing all of them. That is the dilemma. That is as far as I can analyse it briefly today.

On the completely rewriting, I have some experience with that from the EU treaties. It is a hell of a job. It throws up all kinds of issues that maybe had not been thought about at the beginning. So sometimes tidiness is not the best answer. Our Constitution has not ever been fully overhauled, I do not think. When you look at it, you have to look at all the amendments as well. That would be a huge and different job. Is it actually worth it? That question would have to be answered.

On the question of paying higher taxes, we did not go into a lot of detail. People emphasised that they would like to see public money better spent. They are concerned about wasted public money. They also want the ability to pay to be taken into the equation. Yet, with all the caveats, they still said that in order to get what they are asking for, they would be prepared to pay. Of course, we did not discuss how much. Take the issue of childcare. If you are in a family with two children who are in full-time childcare, that is a very significant outgoing. If you had State-funded provided childcare, you would probably be paying less. How much more would you then be paying in taxes to have that? That is a complicated calculation. We did not have the capacity to go into it. It is not all going to go one way. The impact on the individual is not going to be one way. That is why it should go through the general tax system.

We were mindful of being true to focusing on genuine gender equality. This was not just an issue of women's rights. For example, in the recommendation on the quotas in the political section, the recommendation was that the 30% threshold should be increased to 40% for women and 40% for men. This again conveys that this is about gender equality and balance.

The issue of fathers’ rights came up in some of the discussions, for example, around the family and changing that. It also came up in how gender stereotyping starts much earlier in the education cycle. We had some interesting data about how from the age of five years old, gender stereotypes already take shape in people’s minds. It came up in the question of curriculum choice and the choices that are offered to boys and girls, as well as in the area of sports and subject choice. It also came up in wanting to encourage the media to show more men in what are traditionally considered to be women's roles and more women in what are considered to be traditionally male roles, as well as in developing initiatives to encourage men into what are seen to be female-oriented careers, for example, the caring professions. There are lots of elements of that in the recommendations.

That is really helpful. Senator Pauline O’Reilly wanted to come in. Then we will go to Deputy Clarke and then to Senator Higgins.

This has been a good session. It is important to understand the thought process of the citizens. This is particularly the case when people who do not have a legal background come into the room. That is important, because while a Constitution belongs to the people, it is often written by lawyers. Issues that are put before people to vote on are written by lawyers. However, this is done with the best intention of fulfilling what it is that people are looking for.

I revert to one of Deputy McAuliffe’s questions, which was around that around the first recommendation on the issue of gender equality and non-discrimination. How that is to be put in probably needs a little bit of teasing out from our perspective. My understanding, from what Dr. Day has said, is that the citizens understand that that is what we are doing as part of this. We are certainly looking for Departments to do some teasing out.

On recommendation three, which is on the woman's place in the home and the replacement of that with something else, it is fairly clear cut about what the citizens were looking for. Dr. Day has elucidated for us what it is that the citizens were looking for in recommendation number one. We have done a good bit of work on this already. At the moment, we are looking at the constitutional elements. There will be sections of work where we look at the other recommendations. We do not want to find that we put, for example, the Equal Status Act into the Constitution. We also do not want to give issues a hierarchy in the Constitution and then find that have said a certain set of people have rights above and beyond other sections of society. That is the point about the first recommendation.

Dr. Catherine Day

I can only agree. The citizens were trying to send clear messages about the outcome that they want. When they started to get into the mysteries all of this, they realised how complicated it was and how difficult it would be for them to propose wording. The Senator has picked this up exactly right.

One of the options for Article 41.2 would be just to delete it. Then you would not have this out-of-date precept in our Constitution. However, that is not what citizens want. They want something more modern to be put in, to show that we are a caring society, to show that we value care and to show that the State has an obligation to deliver care, both in the home and in the wider community. That is as far as a Citizens’ Assembly can go.

Interestingly, when we were working on the language of the recommendations, they came back several times. They said, “We want it to be more clear, that's not what we wanted to say, we want an obligation.” This is really the output of the citizens, not of the experts, not of the secretariat and not of myself. It was they who crafted this, with advice. This is really what they want.

I want to go back to an issue touched on by Dr. Day, that is, how early in children's lives they start to become aware of gender equality. I refer in particular to the norms and stereotype and the role of education. I agree with her 100%. The younger we can educate people in a gender-neutral manner, the better. It never ceases to amaze me that there are boys' and girls' clothes in shops. A jumper is a jumper. Anyway, that is a personal thing.

Dr. Catherine Day

For newborns.

We have spoken about the intricacies of constitutional change. As regards the other recommendations, for example, Dr. Day highlighted a very good point relating to persons who may need care at the age of 18 and one day and that lack of understanding, or maybe the full appreciation by the members of the Citizens' Assembly of how the system changes. Was there discussion at the Citizens' Assembly on what it expects to happen from here? It was given a job to do within a specific timeframe. Similarly, the committee has been given a job to do within a specific timeframe. The clock is ticking from today to issue our report. Is the assembly aware of what needs to happen after the committee delivers its report? We have had officials in from various Departments and they said clearly to us that they will do nothing until the committee reports. Was the Citizens' Assembly aware of that? Were they aware of the process after the committee reports?

Dr. Catherine Day

We did explain the steps that would be taken. As a result of Covid, the assembly took longer than originally envisaged. The citizens know the decisions will be made by the Government and the Oireachtas on foot of the report of the committee. Not everybody realised that it might, in some areas, take a good bit longer after the report is completed. For example, if recommendation X is adopted, it will then take time to turn it into reality. They consider it very important for that decision to be taken and for it to be done well. If it takes a bit longer to work it out but it is happening, people would have a reasonable understanding of that. I think I would fail in my job if I were not to say that there is a frustration with how long everything takes and the reasons for it taking so long. That is one facet of modern policymaking being so complicated. The assembly wanted to have a Cabinet Minister with cross-Government co-ordination responsibilities because some of these things will require several Departments to work together and that is not the easiest thing to deliver. Why do people fall off a cliff edge at the age of 18? It is because they pass from one Department to another. That is not the way the citizens wanted it to look at the issue. They want a recognition it is the same person and that the State needs to gear up to deliver something good for that person, rather than apologising and saying it is the responsibility of another Department. That will not make it easier to do but the citizens wished to convey their sense that there should not be obstacles because the State has organised itself in a certain way. Rather, it should be whether the State wants to deliver this kind of care to that person.

To come back to the constitutional piece, the committee has stated that we want to see a referendum next year. That will require these issues to be teased out and it is why we are all circling back to that. I agree with Dr. Day that sometimes it is not a simple thing to do. One needs to justify everything that is taken out as well as everything that is put in. That is why considering how things are inserted is important. We have spoken a lot about gender equality but one of the concerns relates to the section that says all citizens should be treated equally, which sounds great, but then has the caveat that the State can have due regard to different physical and moral capacities. Were the citizens aware that, historically, that was a little bit directed to giving the State permission to determine that women might have slightly different physical or moral capacities? It was explicitly in the original draft. The explicit negative reference to women having lesser capacity was taken out in the version of 1937. Was the desire to have that included a reaction; almost saying they want to remove the implied discrimination that everyone is equal but some people have less physical or moral capacity? It is useful for the committee when we think about not just adding in gender equality, but considering from where it came.

Similarly, the piece on the recognition of different families is really important and will be one of the fundamental changes that makes many families feel free when it is inserted in the Constitution. However, the section in which the assembly envisages that change happening also refers to the family as the primary unit of society and the moral institution. The citizens have framed it in the context of private and family life, which is different in terms of the wider definition of the family but also in terms of where the family fits in in its relationship to the State. It may be difficult for Dr. Day to remember those nuances, but I would appreciate hearing any insights she has in terms of the deliberations of the citizens and their sense of that historical piece, for example, and where it came in.

As regards constitutional law, there are lawyers but legislators have to follow through and many legislators are not lawyers, so legislation has its impacts. It can demonstrate the impact of the law as well as legal cases. Similarly, social policy is what follows through. I was very interested in the recommendations relating to social protection, both in their relationship back to the Constitution but also as they relate to things like the marriage bar and the call for an automatic full pension and individualisation of social protection. I presume that when the report refers to an automatic full pension, it is referring to not having means testing for women who, under the marriage bar, were required to leave the workforce and do not qualify for a pension due to the income of their husband, if they have a husband. They do not qualify for a pension in their own right even though the reason they do not have pension credits built up is that they had to leave the workforce due to the marriage bar. That has a connection back to the Constitution piece, for example. I am interested in the individualisation of social protection and specifically that question of the universal pension. I like that the assembly supports it more widely. The assembly is clear that those impacted by the marriage bar should have a pension not on a means-tested basis but on a rights basis, which will go towards redressing inequalities of the past.

Dr. Catherine Day

In general terms, the citizens did hear from experts on why things were in the Constitution, as well as the origins etc., but we did not spend much time on that because they were not a group of constitutional lawyers and it was difficult enough to clearly articulate how to structure the recommendations. We had to go through a series of votes. On the family, we did ask them whether the Constitution should continue to provide recommendation for the family and they did indicate that they wanted that; they just wanted it to apply to all families. They wanted to keep that in the Constitution. Another option would have been just to take it out.

The marriage bar, which forced women to give up their employment on marriage, was seen as an egregious thing to do. We heard from different advocates who stated it had left some women in dire straits in their older years - and most of them are a lot older now - and they wanted something to be done. Again, the assembly did not have the capacity and the knowledge of what is complex legislation to say exactly what should be done but it recognised that because the State had deprived these women of the right to work for themselves and, therefore, to build up a pension, the least the State could do at this late stage would be to provide them with a pension. We did not get into the detail of describing exactly how that should be done, however.

It is a plea for some justice, even retrospectively.

That is very clear.

I like how the citizens have suggested we do it. The suggestions are very good and very concrete. As a pensioner I would think those were good points.

I see Senator Doherty indicating. I might give her the last word on this.

My point is an extension of what Senator Higgins has spoken about. What is Dr. Day's advice on the nuance behind the words "reasonable measures"? I ask her to talk about how the State values care. I will put this in the context of having once had the privilege of being the person at the table responsible for pensions, and not being strong enough to fix this issue because the rest of the world did not want to fix it. That is because we do not value care. It is not just about the women of the 1970s who are suffering with their pensions today. Tusla is screaming out for more foster carers but we do not classify that as work so we do not give them a stamp. We do not allow foster carers to work because we need them to be at home to provide that loving environment but we do not classify caring as work so we will not give them a stamp. In 20 or 30 years, those women will not have a full pension. There are also parents of incapacitated children who, through absolutely no fault of their own as it was a matter of nature, had to give up work to mind their children because the State will not do it. Obviously people want to mind their own children anyway but we do not value that contribution. Then there are ordinary everyday mammies who want to be at home. We should not be differentiating them or classifying them as odd because they want to rear their own kids, but we are going to penalise them.

I was not strong enough to get a stamp for these people during the four years I was at the table. I was instrumental in making sure this got into the programme for Government, which meant the Commission on Pensions had to look at it, but we have had that report for nearly two years and still nothing has happened. I am so frustrated. I do not mean to be disrespectful but when I hear about reasonable measures I know that in ten years we will still be here fighting for a couple of hundred million euro to try to fix this issue. "Reasonable" allows people off the hook. I do not even mean Ministers because if all the officials and the machine do not have that mindset, nothing happens. We need more than "reasonable". I understand why that language is there because otherwise we will not get it through but honest to God, we are going to be talking about this in ten, 20 or 40 years and women will still be in the same quagmire of talking to ourselves and fighting for a little bit of justice and equality. We need something far more than reasonable. I know I am asking Dr. Day for a magic wand, which she does not have.

Dr. Catherine Day

Perhaps I could give a bit more of the background on that recommendation. One of the things the citizens learned was that the clause about the woman in the home had never been actionable in favour of women. The people who defend it say it was there to make sure they could stay at home but there were lots of women who could not. Successive cases were taken on this but that clause never became actionable. What the citizens wanted in the replacement for this clause was something that was actionable and the advice from the legal experts was that "reasonable measures" was something the courts could decide. It would be up to the courts to say in specific instances, if somebody took a case, whether the State was failing in its duty to care for this particular individual by not providing social welfare payments or a pension or whatever. That would make it actionable. This wording is in the constitutions of other countries and they do seem to be able to make it actionable and enforceable. The citizens did not see it as a way of shilly-shallying. They wanted to make it actionable, while bearing in mind that the State has so many claims on it and so many calls on its resources and that it has to be reasonable. It is about how far you can go in dealing with individual cases. That was the thinking behind it. The matter of wording a referendum will come later but those words were very carefully chosen after a lot of debate.

That is very helpful. We all appreciate Dr. Day giving us the background to those recommendations. If colleague have no further questions-----

I have just one. I am fascinated by the cutting-room floor and getting those 500 recommendations down to 45. We have tried to dive into the constitutional recommendations. Were there other nuances in the choices that were made? Was there anything chosen over something else that surprised Dr. Day or gave an insight when the citizens made a distinction? I imagine with 500 there were times when five or six very similar choices had to be teased out.

Dr. Catherine Day

I will explain how we came from over 500 recommendations to 45. First, the citizens generated the recommendations in their groups, and then we asked them to rank them according to importance. In the later stages when people were coming up with new proposals, we asked that a majority in the groups support the recommendation, rather than it being just one person's fixation. That was the process of whittling it down to what were considered by the 99 as the most important. Of course, lots of good ideas were left behind because they knew they could not send the Government 500 recommendations. That just would not make sense. They also wanted the message to be that this was the condensed version of all their aspirations. One of the things that fell on the cutting room floor was a recommendation to end single-sex schools. There were plenty of others like that in the end, where people did not feel they would make it into the final selection in terms of ranking. There were lots of other ideas.

There were loads of other good ideas. That shows how much they wanted us to prioritise and deliver these ones.

Dr. Catherine Day

These were the ones with the clear majority.

That is a very good question to finish on. Dr. Day's response has illustrated very clearly the very careful and diligent process that was gone through to deliver those 45 recommendations. It has given us an insight. I was involved in constitutional conventions before this and it was a fascinating, brilliant and worthwhile experience. Dr. Day has given everyone an insight into how that deliberative democracy process works through the citizens' assembly mechanism. I thank her for giving us the benefit of that insight.

On behalf of all the committee, I thank Dr. Day, Dr. O'Sullivan and Ms Kavanagh for joining us today for our first public meeting. We now have nine months to consider the recommendations set out by the Citizens' Assembly and to produce our report on how to advance their implementation. The clock starts ticking today. We have already done a great deal of preliminary work. Over the past few months we have had a number of private meetings, we have engaged with departmental officials and experts and we have been drawing up our work programme. We will commence our deliberations on the constitutional change recommendations, that is, the first three recommendations. As has been said, we are all very anxious for change to come swiftly on foot of those recommendations and for a referendum to take place next year. I assure the citizens of that. Dr. Day and her colleagues, and anyone tuning in, will have seen the real commitment and focus of our committee members. We understand the frustration of the Citizens' Assembly at the slow pace of change. We share that frustration. We want to see change happening and we are going to be moving in a very committed and focused fashion on those 45 recommendations. I assure the witnesses of that.

The joint committee went into private session at 11.18 a.m. and adjourned at 11.26 a.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 10 March 2022.