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Remove ‘women in the home’ reference from constitution, Varadkar urges Irish voters



Ireland will “take a step backwards” if its constitution is not changed to remove a reference enshrining women’s “duties in the home”, the Taoiseach has said ahead of a referendum on Friday.

Leo Varadkar said the vote was a chance to make a “value statement about what we stand for as a society” and remove “very old-fashioned language” from a constitution written in 1937.

Landmark votes were passed to end constitutional limits on same-sex marriage in 2015 and abortion in 2018 in a country where the Catholic Church was once hugely powerful.

Mr Varadkar said on Thursday: “I think a No vote would be a setback for the country, quite frankly. It would say to a lot of people – hundreds of thousands of people and children – that they’re not in a family as far as our constitution is concerned, and that would be a step backwards.

“And it would also mean in relation to care that the very old-fashioned language about women in the home and mothers’ duties in the home would be maintained and the opportunity to add in special recognition for family carers will be lost.”

Definition of family could be expanded

Voters will be asked two questions, with one expanding the definition of family from being based on marriage to include “durable relationships” such as cohabiting couples and their children.

The government was forced to clarify this did not include “throuples” or polygamous people in January after claims from fringe groups.

Meanwhile, the care amendment replaces language around the role of “women in the home” with a clause recognising care provided by other family members to one another.

All the major political parties support a Yes-Yes vote for the referendums, being held on International Women’s Day.

‘A win is a win’

The Taoiseach, 45, admitted that the results were “in the balance” this week.

“The divorce referendum passed by a very narrow margin, as little as one vote in every ballot box. A win is a win, and I’ll be happy with the result no matter how narrow it is,” he said on Thursday.

Polls predicted a smooth passage for both and a low turnout but there is increasing unease about the vagueness of the two questions.

“Nobody knows exactly what a ‘durable relationship’ is, while everyone knows exactly what a marriage is,” said David Quinn, founder of the conservative pro-family Iona Institute which campaigned against legalising abortion and same-sex marriage.

He also highlighted the removal of the words “women” and “mothers” from the constitution.

“Don’t cancel women,” read one “No” campaign poster on lampposts in Dublin.

“Whatever way my wife would like me to vote, I’ll vote that way,” said Aidan Connolly, a 54-year-old IT company director on Grafton Street in Dublin.

“The constitution refers to the role of a woman, if she wants that to be changed then that’s OK by me.”

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