Ireland votes in referendum on Friday to modernize its Constitution on women and the family

The Irish vote, Friday March 8, without enthusiasm in a referendum aimed at modernizing the references to women and the family in their Constitution, written in 1937 when the Catholic Church reigned in the country over public and private life

Ireland votes in referendum on Friday to modernize its Constitution on women and the family

The Irish vote, Friday March 8, without enthusiasm in a referendum aimed at modernizing the references to women and the family in their Constitution, written in 1937 when the Catholic Church reigned in the country over public and private life. Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (in Paris) and will close at 11 p.m. Results are expected late Saturday.

The first question posed to the Irish concerns the definition of family, and proposes to broaden it beyond that based on marriage, to also include "lasting relationships", such as cohabiting couples, and their children. The second question proposes erasing an outdated reference to the role of women in the home, which suggests that they have a duty to care for the other people under their roof. A new, broader formula would make all members of a family responsible for caring for each other.

Both amendments relate to Article 41 of the Constitution. Ireland, a country of 5.3 million inhabitants and member of the European Union, legalized marriage for same-sex couples in 2015 and abortion in 2018.

All major political parties are in favor of a yes vote and, until recently, polls predicted a fairly easy vote in the referendum, which takes place on March 8, International Women's Day. But the latest polls have revealed growing uncertainty over the result, particularly due to the imprecision of the questions put to the vote. In addition, few voters are expected at the polling stations.

“Small steps forward”

This week, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who leads the center-right governing coalition that proposed the referendum, admitted that a yes victory was not guaranteed for either motion.

“We see these changes as small steps forward and overall we are in favor of a yes vote,” the leader of Sinn Fein, the left-wing nationalist party, Mary Lou McDonald, said on Thursday. This referendum aims to “take another step forward for equality”, defended Orla O’Connor, director of the National Council of Women of Ireland.

But opponents criticize the vague wording in the referendum. “No one knows exactly what a ‘long-term relationship’ is, but everyone knows exactly what a marriage is,” says David Quinn, founder of the Iona Institute, a community advocacy group. Catholic. “Many people will vote no because of the confusion” caused and the disappearance of the words “woman” and “mother” from the text, he estimated.

Other commentators close to the far right have raised the specter of polygamous relationships or family reunification of migrants, which could, according to them, be encouraged.