6 Dec 2018, 10.00

The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality has backed calls to amend Article 41.2 of the Constitution and recommends options to the Government in a new report.

Today’s publication of the Report on pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme of the 38th Amendment of the Constitution (Role of Women) Bill follows a series of September hearings on the topic to address the Government’s request for Committee advice on the matter.

The report proposes two possible courses of action for the Government.

Option A would replace Article 41.2 with “more appropriate, gender-neutral language” along the lines of previous recommendations by a Department of Justice and Equality task force in 2016 and the Constitution Review Group in 1996. If approved, a new Article 41.2 would read:

The State recognises that home and family life gives to society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall endeavour to support persons caring for others within the home as may be determined by law.

Option B would postpone any referendum on the matter until the Government formally consulted the public, potentially following the Citizens’ Assembly model employed in advance of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. This public forum would involve “a broader discussion on the role of care work” and consider what form of recognition the Constitution might provide to carers – whether it should be essentially symbolic, or should “enshrine concrete socio-economic rights.”

“Committee members and witnesses have expressed a universal consensus that the language in Article 41.2 is not appropriate for the Ireland of today,” said Committee Chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD.

“However, our meetings also demonstrated that a wide range of views exist on the path forward. Some members and stakeholders expressed support for simple deletion of Article 41.2. Many more called for a new constitutional commitment that reflects the vital role and contribution of carers to our society.”

Deputy Ó Caoláin said he hoped the report’s analysis and summary of stakeholder views would “assist and inform the Government in whatever steps it decides to take next.”

Read the report here.

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