The Government is aiming to hold two referendums on gender equality in early March, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
In line with the recommendations on gender equality made by the Citizens’ Assembly, people will be asked to vote on a series of amendments to the constitution.
The Citizens’ Assembly recommended that an article of the constitution which deals with the family should be amended so protection is not limited to marital families.
It was also recommended that the constitution be amended to remove a reference to a woman’s “life within the home” and replace it with language that is non-gender specific that recognises care within the home and wider community.
The proposal for the wording of the referendums is due to go to Cabinet next Tuesday.
Responding to a question from Labour leader Ivana Bacik, Mr Varadkar said it would be necessary for the Bill to be in the Houses of the Oireachtas before Christmas or “first thing in January” in order to have the referendum in early March, which is the Government’s current timeframe.
International Women’s Day is on March 8.
Ms Bacik said she is concerned the wording of the referendum would deviate from the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality.
“In particular, we’re concerned to see that rather than offering meaningful recognition for carers, the draft reported today will merely ‘strive’ to support the provision of care, which really is a rather ineffective phrase.
“Furthermore, we understand from the reports in the papers today that the provision of care to be recognised in the constitution will be limited to that: Within the home or within the family.
“Whereas we [Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality] and the Citizens’ Assembly had proposed a more inclusive definition of care to include care outside the home.”
Ms Bacik also called for confirmation that the referendum will expand the definition of family beyond the basis of marriage.
Mr Varadkar said the wording of the referendums would be shared following Cabinet approval.
He said: “Changing the constitution is never straightforward. You always have to bear in mind how it might be interpreted by the courts, and I have a strong view that laws should be made here in the Oireachtas and a decision on how people’s money should be spent be made here in the Oireachtas.
“We always have to take that into account in making any changes to the constitution, but the wording will be brought to Cabinet by Minister [for Equality Roderic] O’Gorman next Tuesday.
“Subject to approval by Cabinet, we’ll be able to share it with everyone on Tuesday and then discuss it further from there.”