Referendum defeats down to ‘anti-woke pushback’ – Ciara Kelly

Fianna Fáil's Wille O'Dea has told his party they need to stop "playing to the woke gallery".
James Wilson
James Wilson

10.34 12 Mar 2024

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Referendum defeats down to ‘an...

Referendum defeats down to ‘anti-woke pushback’ – Ciara Kelly

James Wilson
James Wilson

10.34 12 Mar 2024

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The referendum defeats were part of an “anti-woke pushback” across Ireland, Ciara Kelly has said.

Last week, the Government’s proposals to change the Constitution on the definition of family and care were overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

In the aftermath, Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea tweeted his party “needs to get back to basics and abandon the Hate Speech Bill etc.”


He also said the Government should focus on “housing, health and law and order and stop playing to the woke gallery”, adding they should ignore “the out of touch Greens and NGOs”. 

On Newstalk Breakfast today, Ciara Kelly told listeners she thought the referendum sent the Government a very clear message. 

“I think there was something of an anti-woke pushback,” she said. 

“I don’t think people liked the gender-neutral language; I think people like the word 'woman', I think people like the word 'mother'. 

“I don’t think they wanted it changed into something that was diluted.” 

Referendum Results Counting gets underway in the Family and Care Referendums. Photo: Leah Farrell/©

Ciara said she agreed that people were “confused and worried” about the legal ramifications of the text – but still thinks people seem less interested in social change than was the case before.

“Is it the case that at one point, up until relatively recently, once you said something was liberal or progressive, people did say, ‘Where can I sign?’

“Now, I think people are going, ‘No, I actually want to think about what this means and what I feel about it.’ 

“People are thinking about things differently.” 

Referendum Results Michael McDowell looking at the votes being counted in the RDS for the referendum on family and care. Photo: Leah Farrell/©

Fellow presenter Shane Coleman said he too believed Deputy O’Dea had a “point” but disagreed with him on the issue of the Hate Speech Bill. 

“I think it’s not about abandoning the hate speech legislation because I do think that legislation needs to be updated,” he said. 

“Certainly, I think the focus on it is misplaced. 

“There’s loads of reasons why the referendum was defeated.

“I think the main thing would be people didn’t actually understand what they’ll be voting for and said, ‘If you don’t understand, vote no.’ 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Senator Mary Seery-Kearney vote in the Family and Care Referendums Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Senator Mary Seery-Kearney vote in the Family and Care Referendums, 08-03-2024. Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews

Shane added the Government should turn its attention back to more pressing problems than the Constitution. 

“I think politicians need to listen to what people have said and maybe stop running down blind alleyways,” he said. 

“There’s a desire in Government to be seen to be ‘right-on’, to be progressive and so on and I think the Government needs to be really careful about. 

“The issues that matter to people, as Willie O’Dea said, are housing [and] law and order - the bread and butter issues.” 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government will “reflect” on the campaign and what else it could have done to “persuade” voters.

Main image: Ciara Kelly. 

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