Blog‎ > ‎

Women’s Role in the Irish Constitution

posted Sep 11, 2018, 5:58 PM by Bernard O'Hara

Constance Markievicz
The Irish Government has decided to postpone a proposed referendum to delete a provision in its Constitution which many see as recognising a woman’s role in society only in the home. Article 41.2 of the Irish Constitution (1937) states:

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.
This provision was controversial in 1937 and many then challenged its inclusion. However, it reflected the strong influence of Catholic social teaching at the time, in recognising the role of women in the home, but it did not exclude them from other roles. While there was always some criticism of the provision from 1937, no great demand emerged for its deletion. It is now seen as outdated and way of step with changes in modern Ireland. The Government had decided to hold a referendum in October 2018 on the provision, no doubt influenced by the centenary of the election of Constance Markievicz (1868-1927) as the first woman member of the House of Commons in December 1918.
In 2013, the Constitutional Convention (a group of citizens brought together to consider various aspects of the Irish Constitution) recommended that this provision should recognise carers, but that it be made gender-neutral. The convention clearly wanted the role of carers and caring in society to be recognised in the Constitution. Originally, the Government had decided to have a referendum on deleting the provision, but the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality asked for time so that the wider issues raised by the Constitutional Committee are carefully considered. These include supports for facilitating women and men in making agreed choices in respect of childcare, other caring needs, and paid work. Despite the constitutional provision, many dedicated to working in the home feel that their role does not receive the recognition it deserves compared with those who work inside and outside the home. It is accepted that the roles of both women and men in the home are vital for society. The Government has now allowed time for this discussion to take place. While all these issues are very important, perhaps they are for legislation rather than inclusion in the Constitution, because the Government would have concerns about the cost implications of a range of constitutional rights. However, the days of Irish women having their roles as homemakers enshrined in the Constitution are numbered. It is now expected that the proposed referendum will be held to coincide with the European and local elections in 2019.
Note: Bernard O’Hara’s most recent book is Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting
Bernard O'Hara's latest book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at, or Barnes and Noble
It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from and (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from (Nook tablet and eReader).
An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press ( and is available from and It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from and (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from (Nook tablet and eReader).