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Citizens’ Assembly: Citizens lead change for women’s equality

Published: Saturday, April 24, 2021

In response to the announcement of the results of the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality today (24th April), the National Women’s Council (NWC) hailed the recommendations by the Citizens as a breakthrough for women’s equality and called on the Government to prioritise their implementation without delay.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC said,

“The recommendations by the Citizens are ground-breaking and send a strong and clear signal to Government and all decision makers that women’s equality needs to be at the centre of our Constitution, our legislation and our policies. The recommendations have the potential to really transform women’s’ and girls’ lives in this country and include the key elements that we need to achieve gender equality. We call on the Government to prioritise their implementation without delay.”

Referendum on Art. 41. 2 and the Definition of Family in the Constitution

Orla O’Connor continued,

“We strongly welcome the clear call from the Citizens that our Constitution must protect and promote gender equality. In particular, we welcome the recommendation that the sexist and outdated wording of Art. 41.2 of our Constitution should be removed and replaced by a recognition of the value of care within the home and the wider community. This is exactly what NWC and our members have been campaigning for over many years.

The recommendation to recognise all forms of families in our Constitution, not only families based on marriage, is particularly significant.  This will be very welcome news to lone parent families and same sex families who have been without Constitutional protection for far too long.  We call on the Government to hold a referendum in 2022 that would amend our Constitution in line with these recommendations.”

Public Childcare Model and Person-centred Care

Orla O’Connor said,

“We welcome the Citizens’ strong call for a much greater role of the State in relation to the provision of care in this country. In particular we welcome the strong support of the Citizens for a public childcare model, which is the best way to ensure quality, accessibility and affordability for parents. This public model must provide improved pay and conditions for childcare workers, the majority of whom are women.

We welcome the recommendation that the paid care workforce should have pay and benefits reflecting their skills, similar to teachers and nurses as well as a career structure and professional development. This represents much needed recognition of the critical work that care workers, often migrant women, do in precarious and low paid conditions.

We also welcome the strong emphasis that the Citizens put on the need for care to be person centred, ensuring that the needs of disabled and older people who need care and supports are prioritised over profits and costs.”

Universal State Pension

Orla O’Connor continued,

“We strongly welcome the Citizens’ recommendation for a universal State pension, which would completely transform our pensions system to address the deep inequalities experienced by women. This is particularly important at this critical time when the Government has tasked the Pensions Commission to make recommendations for the future of the State pension. A universal State pension would guarantee income adequacy for women in older age and would recognise that paid work and unpaid work are equally valuable. Implementing this would ensure that all women could live with dignity and independence in their older years.”

Election Quotas and Quotas for Women on Corporate Boards

Orla O’Connor said,

“The Citizens have made a clear statement that women’s low representation in all sectors of society needs to change and they don’t want soft measures, they want quotas. The recommendations for quotas for candidates for local elections, elections to the Seanad, the European Parliament and for gender balance on boards, including corporate boards, provide a very clear direction to government for increasing women’s leadership in Irish society. These measures, combined with the recommendation for the provision of maternity and paternity leave to be available for all elected representatives, would prove transformative to achieving gender equality in Irish politics and breaking down barriers for women in politics.

Women and Work and Individualisation of Social Welfare

Orla O’Connor continued,

“The Citizens’ recommendations on women and work, which include the introduction of a living wage, the right to collective bargaining, women friendly workplaces and investment in better and paid family leave, have the potential to be a game changer for women’s employment and economic equality.  

The proposed individualisation of social welfare payments coupled with increasing payments above the poverty line would fundamentally reform our social welfare system and finally replace our outdated male breadwinner model with a model that works for women.”

Violence against Women

Orla O’Connor said,

“It is clearly evident that the Citizens have understood the scale of the response that is needed to tackle violence against women and the need to take a victim and survivor centred approach. We particularly welcome the Citizens’ call for a specific Cabinet Minister that would have responsibility for violence against women.”

Additional barriers faced by Disabled Women, Lone Parents and Women seeking Asylum

“It is very positive to see the Citizens recognising the additional challenges and barriers faced by disabled women, lone parents and women seeking asylum, and the inclusion of specific recommendations in relation to these groups of women.”

Budget Decisions

Orla O’Connor said,

“Fundamental to all of the recommendations is the strong message to government that they need to change their Budget priorities. They want quality public services and they are willing to pay for it, including through higher taxes.”

Clear Mandate for Government to act

Orla O’Connor concluded,

“The Citizens’ Assembly has shown once again that when people are presented with the full information and are given time and space to consider it, they make recommendations that prioritise the needs and experiences of those most affected by inequality.

And we see yet again how the public in so many ways are far ahead of our politicians in terms of their understanding of the systemic change that is needed to achieve full equality for women and girls. We sincerely thank the Citizens for their time and dedication to the Citizens Assembly which was operating under very difficult circumstances throughout the pandemic. We also warmly thank Dr Catherine Day, and all her team for leading and managing the process in these challenging times.

The Citizens have spoken and it is now up to the Government to follow through on these important recommendations and ensuring that we address the challenges faced by women in their diversity, including also migrant women, women of colour, Traveller women and women from ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ women.”


For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWC, Tel. 085 858 9104.