Debate: What are the yes and no arguments for the upcoming referendums?

Voters are being asked to decide on broadening the definition of family and carers in our constitution this Friday.
Robert Kindregan
Robert Kindregan

18.00 4 Mar 2024

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Debate: What are the yes and n...

Debate: What are the yes and no arguments for the upcoming referendums?

Robert Kindregan
Robert Kindregan

18.00 4 Mar 2024

Share this article

Voting Yes Yes in the upcoming referendums will leave too much open to interpretation for the court system, a leading broadcaster and columnist has claimed.

On Friday, voters across the country will take to the ballot box to vote on broadening the definition of a carer and family in our constitution.

On The Pat Kenny Show today, Barbara Scully said the proposed change of language is too vague and she will be voting No No – despite “really wishing” she could vote Yes Yes.


Family definition

She was joined for a pre-referendum debate on the show by Treoir CEO Damien Pello, a Yes Yes campaigner who said “huge swathes” of people are unprotected by the constitution’s current definition of family.

“We have 40% of children currently born every year that are born to non-marital parents and they deserve the protection of the constitution,” he said.

Mr Pello said he has no problem defining a family as one built on a “durable relationship” – a contentious aspect of the wording change.

“I don’t have a problem with the term durable, I think it is a really useful term to think about how we describe family," he said.

“Family is about committed, long-term relationships and if you look up durable it means long-term and lasting.”

Mr Pello said it’s normal to leave some interpretation open to the courts.

“I think it’s important that we aren’t trying to be too descriptive and defining what durable is,” he said.

“If people feel they are left outside that definition, they can bring that to the courts for them to decide if they are left out – it’s a process.

“We have to use the courts sometimes to push our rights.”

‘Durable relationship’

Ms Scully, who has been a single mother, said she is concerned about what the ‘durable relationship’ term could mean.

“I would describe my relationship with my husband as a durable relationship as we still choose it every day,” she said.

“But your relationship with your children is not something that can be termed as a durable relationship in that way – it’s bigger than that and it’s more fundamental than that.”

Ms Scully said it’s “not good enough” that the courts are being left to work out “exactly what durable means”.

Carer role

She also said a change in our constitution that would see the Government ‘strive to support’ carers is a “horrendous” proposal.

“I think it is a really retrograde step,” said Ms Scully.

“This whole referendum is being sold as a progressive step for Ireland in line with marriage equality – but this one is completely the reverse of what it’s being sold as.

“Until we as a society recognise the value of care and recognise the value and work involved in caring – women will never achieve full equality.”

Mr Pello disagreed and said it would be a “very positive step forward”.

“This is doing two key things; removing language that has been very stereotypical about a woman’s duties and excluding men about the role they play in care, he said.

“For the first time ever, the state would assert a recognition of the care that families already do in Ireland.

“It's not putting an onus on them that they have to do it, but it recognises that they do care.”

Main image:Voting count following an election. Image: Mark Waugh / Alamy Stock Photo

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Barbara Scully Carer Definition Election Family Role March 8 Refendum Referendum The Pat Kenny Show Treoir Vote

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