Irish voters keep motherhood, traditional family in constitution

Irish referendum Votes are counted in Dublin, Ireland, on March 9, 2024, after voters in the country went to the polls March 8 to decide on a pair of referendums proposing wording changes to the Irish constitution aimed at reflecting secular values. | Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

By wide margins, voters in Ireland rejected proposed changes to the country's constitution that would have broadened the definition of family and removed language about the social value of women within the home.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Saturday that voters had delivered “two wallops” to the government, which had pushed for a "Yes" vote on a pair of March 8 referendums.

“Clearly we got it wrong,” he said. “While the old adage is that success has many fathers and failure is an orphan, I think when you lose by this kind of margin, there are a lot of people who got this wrong and I am certainly one of them.”

Nearly 68% of voters rejected the so-called “Family Amendment,” which would have removed a clause about the importance of marriage and family to society from Ireland’s 1937 constitution and legally redefined “family” as either “founded on marriage or on other durable relationships.”

The proposed “Care Amendment,” which would have removed a clause noting that the “state recognizes that by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved," proved even more unpopular, drawing a "No" vote from just under 74% of voters.

Ireland’s leading political parties and other influential groups strongly backed the well-funded referendum initiative, while some conservative groups and the country’s Catholic bishops urged a “No” vote on both measures.

“This decision by the Irish electorate sends a powerful message about the importance of preserving foundational values in the face of sweeping societal changes,” Family Solidarity, an Irish conservative advocacy group that opposed the constitutional language changes, said in a statement Saturday. 

“This victory is not just a rejection of a specific referendum proposal; it is a declaration by the people of Ireland that the core unit of society — the family based on marriage — must remain protected and cherished. It underscores a collective desire to maintain the integrity of societal values that have long been the bedrock of our nation.”

Critics of the amendments argued that the bill — the vote for which took place on International Women’s Day — ironically erased terms like “women” and “mother” from the constitution while also causing confusion about the meaning behind a “durable relationship.” 

The “Care Amendment” also would have removed an article of the Irish Constitution that said “the state shall, therefore, endeavor to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

These clauses would have been replaced by an article noting that the state will “strive to support” the care that “members of a family” give to one another “without which the common good cannot be achieved.”

“The people of Ireland have spoken and given this government and the parties in opposition a walloping,” Sharon Keogan, an Independent Irish senator, posted on X (formerly Twitter.)

“Women do not want to be reduced to non-gender language,” she said. “I, for one, did not view the erasure of the words ‘woman’ or ‘mother’ as something worthy of being progressed. Thankfully this country agreed.”

This is a developing story.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.