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NWC calls for Care referendum in 2023

Published: Thursday, June 09, 2022

The National Women’s Council (NWC) today (Thursday, 9th June) has called on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality to prioritise the necessary changes in our Constitution on women and the value of care in our society by recommending the holding of a care referendum in 2023.

The call was made at a seminar ahead of NWC’s Annual General Meeting on Shifting the Narrative: Moving to a feminist and inclusive Model of Care with speakers including Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman (by video address) and a keynote address by Feminist Economist and Gender Expert, Professor Ursula Barry.

Other speakers included: Deputy Ivana Bacik, Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality, Mariaam Bhatti, The Great Care Co-op, Derval McDonagh and Margaret Turley, Inclusion Ireland and Orla O’Connor, NWC.

Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council said,

“Care is central to the human experience and to women’s equality and this must be reflected in our Constitution. The Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality sent a clear message. We urgently need to remove the sexist and outdated wording of Art. 41.2 of our Constitution and replace it with wording that recognises the value of care within the home and the wider community. The National Women’s Council calls on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality, which is currently discussing these proposals, to recommend the holding of the care referendum for 2023.”

“For too long, Ireland underinvested in the care economy, relying instead on the unpaid or under-paid care labour of women, including many young and migrant women. Valuing care means having decent pay and working conditions and a social welfare system that ensures an adequate standard of living. Valuing care includes supporting women and men to combine unpaid care with paid employment, through better, paid family leave and accessible, affordable, quality childcare. And it is about meeting the support needs of disabled people of all ages and older people. Constitutional reform can provide a strong symbolic commitment, but we also need investment in social infrastructure and public services to truly deliver a caring society.”

Roderic O'Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, has welcomed the focus on inclusion in the provision of care, as the key theme of the National Women's Council's 2022 annual general meeting on the 9th June.

In his video address, the Minister said:

"I commend the National Women's Council for highlighting the varied dimensions to inclusion in care, contributing to raising awareness and increased understanding of the issues. The importance of care work in society, both paid and unpaid, cannot be overestimated as reflected by the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality in its recommendations, which are under examination at the moment by the Oireachtas. Respect for equality, diversity and inclusion in the provision of care are principles that apply to care recipients, family carers and professional care providers.

Making it easier for families to access affordable, quality early learning and childcare which meets their needs, and encouraging parents to share responsibility for this care, are also important measures in addressing gender equality. Recent and planned developments in early learning and childcare and regarding family leave, including legislative proposals to provide a right to request flexible working within the terms of the EU Work Life Balance Directive and an entitlement to leave for medical care purposes, for example, will go way some way to address this." The Minister wished the National Women's Council all success with its deliberations.

Professor Ursula Barry, Feminist Economist and Gender Expert said,

“The care economy is central to every discussion of gender equality in Ireland and globally.  Care and the economy are closely intertwined and the gendered nature of care is increasingly recognised as a significant global political and economic issue. Demographic change, economic crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic have put care more centrally on the current policy agenda. But it has also been very quick to fall off that same policy agenda. Without more gender equality in the care economy, equality at a societal level will not be achieved in Ireland.”

What: Shifting the Narrative: Moving to a feminist and inclusive Model of Care

When: Thursday, 9th June, 10 am – 12 pm. Photo opportunity with speakers at 9:30 am

Where: Spencer Hotel, Excise Walk, Dublin 1 (In person event)


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

Notes to Editor:

Ursula Barry, Associate Professor Emeritus, UCD

Ursula Barry is a feminist economist and specialises in gender, equality and public policy. Ursula represents Ireland on the EU Research Network on Gender Equality (SAAGE.eu) and previously on Equality Data, Social Protection and Women & Poverty. Ursula has written and presented extensively on economic and social policy (in an Irish and EU context) from a gender and equality perspective, with a particular emphasis on the care, employment and welfare. Ursula has worked on inequality and gender with NGOs, civil society organisations and statutory agencies and recently produced a research study for the FEMM Committee of the European Parliament on The Care Economy, Gender Equality and EU Covid-19 Recovery Funds. Ursula was recently a member of the Expert Advisory Group to the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality.

About NWC
The National Women’s Council (NWC) is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters. The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. More information is available on www.nwci.ie