Counting starts after Irish family and care referendums

Counting starts after Irish family and care referendums
Counting starts after Irish family and care referendums

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - File photo of ‘Yes’ campaigners posing at a photo call organised by the National Women’s Council in Dublin, Ireland on March 5, 2024, ahead of the Irish Referendum. — AFP pic

DUBLIN, March 9 — Ireland began counting votes today after a double referendum on proposals to modernise constitutional references to the make-up of a family and women’s “life within the home”.

The votes are the latest attempt to reflect the changing face of European Union member Ireland, and the waning influence of the once-dominant Catholic Church.

Turnout was mixed when polls closed at 10 pm (2200 GMT) on Friday, reaching 50 per cent in some parts of the country, but below 30 per cent elsewhere, according to the local broadcaster RTE.

All the major political parties support a “Yes-Yes” vote and until recently polls predicted a smooth passage for both on International Women’s Day.

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Results in both votes are expected by late today. Nearly 3.5 million people were eligible to cast their ballot.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who heads the centre-right-green governing coalition that proposed the questions, admitted this week that the results were “in the balance”.

After casting his vote in the capital Dublin, he urged people to vote “yes” to both questions because “all families are equal” and “family carers should be recognised in our constitution”.

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The two proposals — called the family amendment and the care amendment — would make changes to the text of Article 41 in the Irish constitution, written in 1937.

The first asks citizens to expand the definition of family from those founded on marriage to also include “durable relationships” such as cohabiting couples and their children.

The second proposes replacing old-fashioned language around a mother’s “duties in the home” with a clause recognising care provided by family members to one another.

The country of 5.3 million opted to end constitutional limits on same-sex marriage in 2015 and abortion in 2018.

In addition to the governing coalition and the main opposition party, Sinn Fein, women’s rights and family carer groups have also urged citizens to “vote for equality”.

“We see these changes as small steps forward and therefore on balance have advocated a ‘yes’ vote,” said leftist-nationalist Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald on Thursday.

But “No” campaigners argue the concept of “durable relationship” is undefined and confusing and that women and mothers are being “cancelled” from the constitution.

Meanwhile, ultra-conservative voices have argued the changes could constitutionally protect polygamous relationships and increase immigration via migrant family reunions — accusations all denied by the government. — AFP

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