Lawyers back ‘important role’ of stay-at-home mums ahead of Irish referendum

The Republic of Ireland must not remove the “only special recognition of the role of mothers” from its Constitution just days before Mother’s Day, a group of lawyers has warned.

Lawyers for No, launched by former Tánaiste and Attorney General Senator Michael McDowell, outlined the impact of the Government’s proposals to remove the State’s commitment to stay-at-home mothers and equate “durable relationships” with marriage.

On 8 March, citizens resident in the Republic of Ireland will be asked to vote in two referendums on the proposed changes to the Constitution.


Speaking at the group’s launch, barrister Maria Steen criticised the Government’s “blatant mistruth” that ensuring mothers are not forced to work outside out of home for “economic necessity” prevents some from choosing to do so.

She clarified that in contrast, the current safeguards are for the “protection of children and in the interests of children and in the interests of the bonding between mother and children”.

Laoise de Brún BL agreed, urging the public not to scrap “a beautiful recognition of the profoundly important work of mothers and women in the home”.


In an interview with RTÉ News, Snr McDowell slammed the Government’s other proposal to amend the Constitution to claim that family as the “natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society” can be “founded on marriage or founded on other durable relationships”.

it’s going to bring chaos to family law

He said: “This is a mistake in the making, it’s going to bring chaos to family law, it’s going to bring unworked out changes to tax law, pensions law, family law and inheritance laws and immigration law, it’s going to do all of that, and it is foolish to make this mistake now”.

McDowell’s group warned that the vague definition of “durable relationships” introduces “huge uncertainty into our fundamental law” and “opens the door to concurrent and successive families with multiple partners”.

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter also attacked the changes. In a scathing letter to The Irish Times, he branded them “legally flawed political virtue signalling”.


Earlier this year, members of the Seanad Éireann also warned that the vague wording could be expanded by future court rulings to include polygamous or polyamorous relationships.

Equalities Minister Roderic O’Gorman claimed the phrase “durable relationships” was only designed to include “cohabitees” and “one-parent families”, and he dismissed the risk of it being interpreted to include “polygamous marriages”.

But Senator Rónán Mullen said that despite his assurances, the proposed amendment “devalues marriage” by equating it with a phrase he “cannot define” in the Constitution or prevent “potential interpretations” of in the future.

He said that if passed, the “Government will say the family is still based on marriage and that it has just extended the definition but, no, it has emptied the definition of any meaning”.

Also see:

Irish referendum ‘a recipe for chaos and uncertainty’ says former Attorney General

Seven-in-ten Irish mums want to stay at home to bring up children

‘Women betrayed’ as Republic of Ireland aborts almost 10,000 babies