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Fears referendum on women in home will turn into culture war on gender

Fears that a referendum on women in the home will turn into a culture war on gender have been raised with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

The Government has yet to agree the wording of two votes to address the reference to women and the definition of the family in the Constitution, which is now expected to be delayed until at least February.

A sub-Cabinet committee yesterday met to hammer out the exact wording of what should be put to the people.

However, ministers have yet to make a final decision.

Separately it is understood a number of Fine Gael politicians have suggested to Mr Varadkar that some groups may try to turn the referendum campaign into a debate on the definition of a woman.

It is feared this could take the focus away from the vote to remove “sexist” and “archaic” references to a woman’s place being in the home out of the Constitution.

At a recent meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, TDs suggested the referendum campaign could spark a nasty culture war. 

This concern was also raised at a previous sub-cabinet committee meeting.

However, ministers are confident that this can be counteracted through a strong information campaign ahead of any vote.

The Irish Examiner first reported in July that ministers had come into difficulty with drafting the questions that will be put to voters and a pledge to hold the referendum in November was no longer realistic.

Last week, Mr Varadkar confirmed that the Government will now be guided by the newly-formed electoral commission on the timing of the vote.

Yesterday, the National Women’s Council (NWC), Treoir, One Family, Family Carers Ireland, Siptu, and other organisations gathered outside Leinster House calling for the publication of the wording for the upcoming equality referendum.

NWC director Orla O’Connor said: “The referendum is our chance to lead a national conversation on the values and principles that we want to see shape our shared future and policies. 

"It is a historic opportunity to remove limits on women’s role from the Constitution and instead enshrine the value of care in all of its forms, inside the home and in the wider community.”

She added: “People who provide care, both in paid and unpaid roles, must be able to do so with dignity and with the proper support and resources. And people who may need care must have access and choice when it comes to the supports they need to live their lives independently.”