Letter: to the Government of Ireland, in relation to the proposed wording of the amendments to the Irish constitution on Women and Family

We write as women’s and community organisations with concerns about the proposed wording of the Amendments to the Irish Constitution on Women and the Family, which are to go to referendum in March 2024, and are scheduled to be discussed in the Dáil this week.

Having been tasked by the Government with bringing forward proposals that would advance gender equality by identifying and dismantling economic and salary norms that result in gender inequalities, and reassessing the economic value placed on work traditionally done by women, the Citizens’ Assembly recommended in its report of June 2021 that 

“Article 41.2 of the Constitution should be deleted and replaced with language that is not gender specific and obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community”. Further, the Joint Oireachtas Committee, set up to review the recommendations of the Assembly, supported them by proposing a broader definition of the family in the Constitution and the following wording.

1. The State recognises that care within and outside the home and family gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.  

 2. The State shall, therefore, take reasonable measures to support care within and outside the home and family.

However, we understand that the Government plans to ignore these recommendations and introduce weaker wording for the State to ‘strive to support care’, rather than obliging them to take ‘reasonable measures to support care’. ‘Striving’ is purely aspirational, with no real substance to allow for the government to be held to account for any failures towards carers in our society. This is not the recognition of caring work that the Citizens Assembly voted for and it would merely result in reiterating what is already there in a gender-neutral manner.

People providing care serve a vital role in our society and we simply could not function without them, and yet, they have been consistently neglected throughout our history. Even today, many carers, especially in one-parent households, are faced with a constant battle to access the resources and supports they need to survive. This is compounded when they themselves have disabilities. Family Carers Ireland estimates there are 500,000 plus family carers in Ireland, but the means-tested carer’s allowance is only €236 per week for caring for one person. 

The vast majority of women in Ireland are mothers and are often their family’s primary carers. Over one quarter of families with children are headed by a lone parent – the majority of these parents (86.4%) are women and almost half of them live in deprivation and have the highest consistent poverty rate among household types, at 13.1 percent. This situation continues while the amount of money that carers save the state is approximately €20bn yearly through providing 19 million unpaid hours per week, not only caring for children but for other family members. 

This lack of support for unwaged caring results in poverty for those who do most of the caring and those they care for. Such neglect can lead to homelessness, sex work, criminalisation and children being taken into state care, causing lifelong trauma.

The lack of remuneration for caring work in the home has also been used to keep women’s wages low, particularly in caring jobs often done by migrant workers.

Amending the Constitution to include the recommended wording and enabling legal enforcement, would give some meaningful recognition of caring work as well as recourse to family and other carers to access supports that are owed to them and would address deprivation and poverty in our communities.

We call on the government to act on the recommendations made by the Citizens Assembly and the Joint Oireachtas Committee and enshrine their duty in the Constitution to all who provide essential caring in our country. Anything else is discriminatory, expecting caregivers, mainly women, to struggle on with little or no recognition and support. 


Red Umbrella Film Festival 

Global Women’s Strike Ireland 

Academics for Reproductive Justice 

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland 

Women in Media and Entertainment 

Galway Feminist Collective 

Slí Eile

Ugly Mugs Ireland 

The Elephant Collective 

National Ugly Mugs

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey

Margaretta D’Arcy

Jen O’Leary

Becky Leacy

Leness Falls

Antonella Garofalo

Aoife Moran Terry

Sharae Deckard

Paola Rivetti

James Heslin

Almut Semkow

Sofia Albrecht

Maggie Ronayne

Catherine Healy

Stephanie Lord

Marguerite Woods 

Suzanne Walsh

Tanya Keoghan

Nichola Clifford 

Ciara Murphy 

Lisa Walshe

Elizabeth O’ Donoghue

Trish Leahy

James Kearney

Rose Foley

Ursula Connolly 

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington 

Lucy-Ann Buckley

Laura Crotty

Sinead Moloney

Miriam Ryan 

Jim Healy

Emma O’Grady

Siobhán Madden

Sylvie Lannegrand

Sarah Dots Doherty

Linda Kavannagh

Eve O’Reilly

Máirín Mhic Lochlainn

Clare O Connor 

Kate McGrew