Ireland’s historic referendum on gender language

Ireland votes on 'archaic' gender terms

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Credit: leovaradkar/

Could Ireland be on the brink of a societal shift? This question looms large as the nation gears up for a pivotal referendum.

On Friday, March 8, Irish citizens will be called to the polls to decide on proposed revisions to the nation’s constitution, including plans to revise the words ‘woman’ and ‘mother.’

These changes, set to potentially transform the current notions of family and women‘s roles within society, have sparked widespread debate.

The Irish Electoral Commission has initiated an independent campaign to educate the public about the upcoming vote.

Reimagining family and care

At the heart of the referendum are two significant amendments, known as the Family Amendment and the Care Amendment.

The former seeks to broaden the concept of family beyond traditional bounds to encompass individuals in ‘durable relationships’.

Meanwhile, the latter aims to strike the ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ clause, replacing it with language that acknowledges the societal value of caregiving within families, irrespective of gender.

‘The State recognises that the provision of care, by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them, gives to Society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved, and shall strive to support such provision,’ reads the proposed new clause.

Political and public reactions

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, has vocally supported both amendments, stressing the importance of modernising the constitution to reflect contemporary values. ‘In terms of momentum for a Yes vote, while I’m certainly not taking the result of the referendum for granted, I do think it’s in the balance,’ Varadkar stated.

He further highlighted the need for recognition of one-parent families and the enduring nature of parental bonds.

Critics, however, argue that the amendments might undermine the significance of womanhood and label the changes as mere symbolic gestures.

Senator Ronan Mullen dismissed the amendments as ‘constitutional novelty’, and Judge Marie Baker critiqued the vague definition of ‘durable relationships’.

Opinion polls and voter sentiment

Recent surveys indicate a leaning towards acceptance of the amendments, with a notable lead for the ‘Yes’ vote in both the family and care polls.

However, these polls also suggest that voters who are more informed tend to oppose the changes, revealing a divide in public opinion.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.