The Family & Care Referendums

March 8th, 2024

On International Women's Day last year (March 8th, 2023), the Government announced its intention to hold a referendum on gender equality by November the same year. This didn't go as planned, and the Government didn't release the proposed wording of the amendments until December. 

The Thirty-Ninth Amendment to the Constitution (Family) Bill 2023

Proposed changes to Article 41.1.1° (addition in bold):

"The State recognises the Family, whether founded on marriage or on other durable relationships, as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law."

Proposed changes to Article 41.3.1° (removal in bold):

"The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack."

The Fortieth Amendment to the Constitution (Care) Bill 2023

Removal of Article 41.2.1° and 41.2.2°:

"In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved."

"The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."

Replace with Article 42B:

"The State recognises that the provision of care, by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them, gives to Society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved, and shall strive to support such provision."

First, let's look at turnout.

As we can see, there is virtually no difference between turnout among the two referendums. Turnout as a whole was 44.36%, which is not the lowest we have seen in the last ten referendums. In fact, turnout was lower in four of the last ten referendums. 

Next, let's look at the overall result. As we can see, both Referendums were defeated. The Family Referendum was the third most heavily defeated referendum in state history, and the Care Referendum took the spot for the highest defeat that an Irish Government has ever had in a referendum.

Here we can see a breakdown of how each constituency voted. As we know, in the Family Referendum, only Dún Laoghaire voted Yes, and no constituency voted Yes in the Care Referendum. Therefore, the maps below show the percentage No vote that every constituency reported.

As I mentioned earlier, the Government lost both referendums by the third and first highest margin in state history. Here is a look at the five highest losses of referendums. 

It is also notable that these dual referendums was only the second time in state history where the Government lost more than one referendum in a day. There have been ten occasions where more than one referendum was held on a single day, and two of those days (25 Nov 1992 and 7 Jun 2001) had three questions put to the public.