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ICCL backs FLAC stance on referendums
Eilis Barry of FLAC Pic: Jason Clarke

01 Jan 0001 / ireland Print

ICCL backs FLAC stance on referendums

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) have both called for more clarity on the constitutional referendums on family and care being put to voters on 8 March.

The first referendum will be on a proposed amendment to article 41.1 that will broaden the protection offered to the family to include families other than those based on marriage.

The second vote will be on a proposal to repeal article 41.2, which includes a reference to women ‘in the home’, and insert a new article 42B to provide recognition for care within families.

New wording

FLAC has proposed new wording to the proposed article 42B, arguing that the current proposal recognises care obligations within families, but places no equivalent obligation on the State to support that work.

“The recognition of family care alone is not sufficient to strengthen the rights of carers, and to ensure substantive improvements in law and policy,” FLAC says.

Rather than the current version, which says that the State “should strive” to support the provision of family care. FLAC believes that the wording should say that the State “shall take reasonable measures” on care “within families and the wider community”.

It also calls for a reference to the rights of people with disabilities – either in the reworded article 42B or in an additional article 42C.

‘Unintended outcomes’

The ICCL says that, while it supports the removal of the “archaic” reference to a woman’s place in the home in article 41.2, any amendment must ensure “full and equal” protections for both carers and people who are cared for.

“In this context, we remain concerned that there may be unintended negative outcomes for people who are cared for, arising from the proposed text in its current form,” the organisation states.

It points out that, while both the Citizens’ Assembly and Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality recommended that the Constitution be amended to recognise care within and outside the home, the wording proposed by the Government refers only to care within families.

‘Risk of misinformation’

While FLAC welcomes the broader definition of the family in the proposed article 41.1, it believes that an expansion of constitutional protection to families founded “on other durable relationships” raises many questions about what the amendment will mean in practical terms – including law and policy on social welfare, taxation, succession, and family law.

“The absence of any proposed legislative changes heightens the risk of misinformation during the referendum campaign,” says FLAC chief executive Eilis Barry (pictured).

“The lack of legislative proposals defining what these new provisions mean will also result in diverse families being forced to look to the courts to define and give effect to their new constitutional rights,” she adds.

The ICCL has backed FLAC’s call for further clarification on the implications of changes to article 41.1 in advance of the referendum.

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