Government defeated over referendums to amend references to family and care in constitution

Government defeated over referendums to amend references to family and care in constitution

THE GOVERNMENT has been heavily defeated in two referendums calling for changes to references to family and care in the constitution.

Even before the full results of Friday's voting had been announced, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged that the referendums had been 'defeated comprehensively’.

Meanwhile, Peader Tóibín, whose Aontú party was the only political party to campaign against the referendums, described the proposed amendments as 'peak virtue signalling'.

Heavy defeat

Ahead of the referendums, Mr Varadkar said the amendments were aimed at removing 'very old-fashioned language about women in the home and mothers' duties in the home'.

The family amendment sought to describe families as being founded not just on marriage but also on 'other durable relationships' while removing a reference to families being founded on marriage in a later subsection.

The care amendment aimed to replace text referring to women and mothers providing care and performing duties in the home with text describing the provision of care 'by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them'.

Both referendums were defeated, with 67.69 per cent voting No on the family amendment and 73.93 per cent voting against the care amendment on a turnout of 44.36 per cent.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media at Dublin Castle as counting gets underway on Friday (Image: Sasko Lazarov /

Across both votes, Dún Laoghaire was the only one of 39 constituencies to vote Yes in either referendum, with 50.29 per cent backing the family amendment.

Over the past decade, Ireland has shown an appetite for societal and constitutional change, voting overwhelmingly to legalise abortion and same-sex marriage.

However, acknowledging the defeat on Friday evening, Mr Varadkar said the government would reflect on its inability to convince the electorate to back to latest amendments.

"It was our responsibly to convince the majority of people to vote Yes and we clearly failed to do so," he said.

"I think we struggled to convince people of the necessity or need for the referendum at all, let alone the detail and the wording.

"That's obviously something we're going to have to reflect on into the weeks and months ahead."

'Peak virtue signalling'

Mr Tóibín said the government caused confusion with its references to 'durable relationships' and of reducing the provision of care in its proposed wording for the care amendment.

He also accused the government and the opposition of being out of touch with the electorate and of being incapable of recognising what people actually what.

"It is incredible that Aontú was the only political party that has actually campaigned against this," he said.

"The whole political establishment seem to be out of touch with the people of Ireland on this — there is a political bubble that is ignoring the will of the people.

"I believe that this was peak virtual signalling in relation to these two amendments.

"What people actually want is real recognition for all families, but financial recognition too for families and for carers, and that's not what's happening at the moment."