Minister Flanagan & Minister Stanton announce Referendum to Repeal Article 41.2 of the Constitution




5 July 2018




The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, and the Minister with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, today announced the Government’s intention to hold a referendum on the deletion of Article 41.2 of the Constitution, the article which refers to a women’s life and duties in the home.


Proposing the deletion of the article, Minister Flanagan said: 


‘In this – the centenary year of the extension of voting rights to women – the Government believes it is an appropriate time to propose the deletion of Article 41.2 and to use the opportunity of the referendum to have a public debate about gender equality in Ireland’.


He continued:  ‘Over 80 years after the Constitution was formally adopted, it is clear that Article 41.2 has no place in our Constitution.  It undermines today’s goal to achieve real gender equality by ensuring women have real choices about what to do with their lives.  In fact, while Article 41.2 may reflect the prevailing social ethos of the 1930s, its inclusion in the Constitution was actually controversial from the very beginning.  Even before the Constitution was formally adopted, a number of people argued it represented a narrow, discriminatory view that sought to confine women to one part of society only – carrying out duties in the home.’


Minister Flanagan went on to make the point that:


‘The proposal to delete the provision does not reflect a negative view of women in the home, it reflects a negative view of the notion that women should be confined to the home only, and should not have choices or be encouraged to play a role in public life.  Modern Ireland values meritocracy, diversity and inclusion and Article 41.2 does not reflect those values.  Our Constitution does not seek to confine the place of men; we believe it should not seek to confine the place of women.  Both men and women should be able to live the lives they choose.’


For decades, Article 41.2 has been criticised domestically and internationally including by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  There have been various reports over the last 25 years about what should happen to it with various different proposals being put forward about rewording the Article or inserting something new.


In recent weeks, Minister Flanagan, along with Ministers Doherty and Zappone, have consulted with various stakeholders on the issue and given briefings about the Government’s approach.  There is a clear appetite for a wider consultation on the issue of ‘care’.  Government today agreed that a separate deliberate process is required to consider this wide ranging, important policy area.  The next Citizens’ Assembly will be asked to consider this issue.


The commitment to hold a referendum to remove Article 41.2 is contained in both the Programme for Government and the Second National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020.   It is now intended that this referendum will take place in October at the same time as the referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution and the Presidential Election, if one takes place.


The proposal to delete Article 41.2 from the Constitution is part of a wider programme of gender equality measures, including new legislation on wage transparency to tackle the gender pay gap in companies; and a forthcoming initiative to tackle the poor representation of women on corporate boards. 


Minister Stanton said: ‘The Government wants to ensure that gender discrimination is eliminated in Ireland.  We want women to have meaningful choices and we do not believe the Constitution should seek to confine women to one sphere of life only.  We want to ensure that women are remunerated and appointed based on merit, not held back because of discrimination or structural barriers.   Minister Flanagan and I are firmly committed to this work on equality and we see deletion of Article 41.2 as an important and necessary step.  We hope that men and women will play an active part in the debate that will precede the October referendum.’


Note to Editors


Article 41.2 states:


41.2.1° 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.


41.2.2° 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.