Donnie Gibney, Anne Gibney, Frances Monahan, Michelle Maher, Sorca Clarke TD, Bernie Pigott, Breda Brennan and Maureen Pigott at a Yes Yes campaign meeting in the Annebrook House Hotel on Saturday, February 17.

NWC ‘Yes Yes’ campaign say time to change

The National Women’s Council (NWC) was in Mullingar last week campaigning for a Yes Yes vote in next month’s referendum. On March 8, International Women’s Day, they are asking the public to vote yes in favour of amending both the constitutional definition of a woman’s role in the home and the expansion of the concept of a family.

Director of the NWC Orla O’Connor said they were “thrilled to be talking to the people of Westmeath” ahead of these referendums. “These votes are our opportunity to shape a fairer, more equal Ireland where all families and children are valued equally,” she said, “an Ireland where the important contribution of care by both men and women is recognised.

“It’s our chance to send a strong message to the government that we want to see supports for families and for care.”

Speaking at a campaign meeting in the Annebrook House Hotel on Saturday February 17, Deputy Sorca Clarke said the constitution is outdated in its definition of a family. “It doesn’t reflect the society we live in today,” said the Sinn Féin TD.

“For me, as someone who is from a single-parent family and someone who has been a single parent, I don’t agree with the definition of a family in our constitution – I think it is grossly unfair. Our constitution essentially says that a woman’s place is her home and I firmly believe that a woman’s place is whatever she chooses for it to be.”

Local campaigner Dr Michelle Maher said she also felt “very strongly” about the family amendment. “I happen to be a single mother and I think my family is equal to any other family – whether it’s based within or without marriage,” she said.

“A number of things in the constitution make me feel alienated, especially around family. It doesn’t describe my family because my family is not created within a marriage.”

Sinn Féin local election candidate in the Kinnegad LEA, Maureen Pigott, said the definition of family needs to extend to those with disabilities too. “There are not a lot of people out there with disabilities who have kids,” she said.

“I would like to see people who have disabilities be allowed to adopt, because for me, in particular, it wouldn’t be safe for me to have kids of my own. It would be frowned upon; they wouldn’t deem me to be a fit parent without being able to dress a child – but that’s not the only way to look after a child.”

Ms Pigott added that Ireland is “so far behind the times” in terms of equality.

NWC campaigner Don Gibney said he’s voting yes yes as “anything that opens up the constitution is a good thing”.

“It’s important to open up the family amendment of the constitution to include all families,” he said. “It’s unfair on unmarried couples and it’s necessary to move with the times; it needs to be opened up to include fathers, grandparents, and everyone else. Family situations have evolved over the years and we have to address that and not be left behind.”

The proposed wording of the amendments are at