Ireland’s government fails to redefine marriage

Ireland's constitution was written in 1937. Its language reflects the era and uses terminology that could sound patronising, sexist or archaic to modern ears. Article 42 references “the duties” of women in the home, inferring men do not operate in the domestic sphere. The same article goes on to say that “mothers” should not be forced from the home “out of economic necessity”, conflated by some to infer that a woman's place is in the home.

The impact of these expressions on actual legislation has been either neutral or positive. Article 42 was invoked successfully to ensure financial support for mothers who, through circumstances, lost the family breadwinner.

Last week’s referendum to change the constitutional status quo was not about old-fashioned language. Language offered a pretext to erase meaningful distinctions in family life.

It is worth mentioning that the Constitution's preamble continues to state that “all authority of the State comes from … the Most Holy Trinity”. Our crusading secularists don’t like this phrase either. However, it doesn't interfere with their programme of social deconstructionism, so it is just ignored.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Irish electorate was invited to approve two changes. One was to remove the reference to women and mothers and to replace it with an affirmation of all “caring” within families. The second proposition was to remove the special recognition our Constitution gives to “the family based on marriage” by extending it to all families “based on durable relationships”.

Polls two weeks before the referendum suggested that the amendments would be passed by a very comfortable majority.

Then there was an intervention from an unexpected quarter.

Michael McDowell, a distinguished barrister and former Minister for Justice who now sits in the upper house, entered the fray. With other members of Parliament, he had misgivings, especially about the term “durable”. He proposed a clause that would give the government of the day power to define what “durable relationships” were. Like all proposed tweaks to the amendments, it was ignored. The government drove through the legislation required to hold the referendums with all possible speed and with close to no scrutiny.

Even without hindsight, the government's obduracy seemed strange. With hindsight, one begins to detect that what looked like foolish obduracy and political foolhardiness had sinister deliberation. Any conditionality around  "durable" meant the special status of marriage was somehow upheld because marriage is privileged from the moment the two parties sign the civil contract.  This argument was used to advance the case for gay marriage back in 2015, ironically by the same people behind the latest referendums.  

There is no doubt that the whole point of the referendum was to obliterate distinctions between marital and non-marital unions. So no, the government’s campaign was not about modernising and updating. It was a crusade to destroy traditional marriage. 

We have woken up. I was proud of our country last Saturday when we rejected both referendums by massive majorities.

It was a triumph for critical thinking. And it was extraordinary when you consider there had been no real No campaign and all political parties (with the exception of Aontu, a new party) alongside the National Women's Council, the publicly-funded Queen of Quangos, were advocating a Yes vote.

They tried to persuade us that removing recognition of the unique value of a mother's role would help all those who “care” for others within families. They tried to persuade us that the special status of marriage hurt unmarried parents.

They tried to persuade us that there would no unintended consequences. The chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Justice Maria Baker, told us that polygamy (and polyamory) would be impossible because polygamy was a crime in Ireland. But she failed to point out that it would not be a crime against “durable relationships”.

Such glib reassurances did not fly, thanks largely to Michael McDowell.

Our progressive apparatchiks were unable to answer fundamental questions. What we got was waffle, evasion, moral grandstanding and ad hominem attacks. We began to see that the emperor had no clothes. In little more than a week the electoral ground shifted seismically.



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Finding itself on the back foot, the government desperately played the hackneyed “scaremongering” card. It failed.

In the 2015 campaign to amend the constitution to allow same-sex marriage, opponents claimed that changing the definition of marriage would lead to surrogacy. This was derided as scaremongering.

Eight years on, surrogacy has been normalised. The government, despite a ban on commercial surrogacy, is drawing up legislation to register commissioning couples, or even individuals, as parents of babies born to surrogate mothers in poor countries. This is a direct consequence of allowing people to marry and “found a family”, “irrespective of gender”.

During the abortion referendum in 2018, opponents claimed that abortion numbers would rise. This was derided as scaremongering. The government insisted that abortions would decrease because of safeguards, including a three-day waiting period. Since then it has been dismantling the safeguards. Abortions have escalated year on year.

Time after time, those ignorant “scaremongers” were right.

Politicians are now turning on each other in a blame game and gaslighting the poor ignorant sods who elected them. But voters are belatedly beginning to join the dots. They see how our society continues to unravel as liberalising, distinction-obliterating legislation crushes our notions of what men, women, parenthood, marriage and family are.

This ideological juggernaut came to a shuddering stop last Saturday. The government and its quangos, in particular the poisonous and parasitic National Women's Council, wanted to take mothers and women out of the Constitution as a Mothers' Day present, and to make it harder for them to look after their children at home.  

Now they realise that we are not the Yes women and Yes men they took us for.

What do our Irish readers think of the failed referendum? Post a comment in the box below.  

Margaret Hickey is a mother of three and lives with her husband in Blarney.

Image: Ireland at the polls / Electoral Commission


Showing 2 reactions

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  • mrscracker
    Praise God.
  • Margaret Hickey
    published this page in The Latest 2024-03-13 21:29:52 +1100