Ireland will hold two Constitutional referendums on March 8, 2024, International Women's Day, the Irish Government confirmed on Tuesday, December 5.

The first 'family' referendum, if approved, would update the 39th Amendment of the Irish Constitution to "expressly provide for a wider concept of the Family" by inserting new text "referring to the Family whether founded on Marriage or founded on other durable relationships."

The second 'care' referendum, if approved, would repeal Article 41.2 of the Constitution, which refers to the life of woman in the home, and insert a new Article recognizing that "the provision of care, by family members to each other by reason of the bonds that exist among them, gives to Society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved and shall strive to support such provision."

The Taoiseach said on Tuesday: “We firmly believe that passing these amendments will reinforce the fact that Ireland is a modern, inclusive nation that strives to treat and care for all its people equally and we’ll work vigorously to achieve this."

Ireland’s Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth published the draft text of both of the proposed amendments on Tuesday.

The confirmation of the referendums comes on the foot of recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality and the subsequent Special Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality. 

The Taoiseach had said in March that it envisioned a referendum would be held in November 2023.

Later on Tuesday, TD Ivana Bacik, the head of Ireland's Labor Party and the former Chairperson of the Committee on Gender Equality, told the Taoiseach that she welcomed the progress.

"It is a year since our committee presented a report to Government with a cross-party framing of wording to create a more expansive definition of family beyond the family based on marriage and I very much welcome that similar language is being used in the Government proposal," Bacik said.

However, she continued: "We also proposed a particular text around the new provision to replace the current sexist language around women and mothers with a gender neutral provision recognizing and supporting care, but we had proposed, as the citizens' assembly did, that this would recognize care both in the home and in the wider community.

"It is fair to express disappointment on my own behalf that the definition of care presented by the Government in its own proposed wording is more restrictive."

Bacik asked the Taoiseach if he could say why the Government did not follow the gender equality committee and the citizens' assembly recommendations.

He responded: "It is something we gave careful consideration to.

"The first thing we are proposing is to delete the archaic sexist language in the Constitution with regard to a women's duties in the home and to replace it with a new article which gives constitutional protection and recognition to care within the family.

"It does not necessarily have to be within the home but it does have to be family care.

"We took the view that family care is different. It is different to care provided in nursing homes or by commercial home care providers, for example.

"We took the view in the round that while it made sense to give constitutional protection and status within the family, extending that protection to commercial operations in the main, such as nursing homes and home care providers, would not have been the right thing to do."

In March, the Department of the Taoiseach said that the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality, in its final report to the Oireachtas in June 2021, made recommendations for amendments to Articles 40 and 41 of the Constitution.

These were that: Article 40.1 of the Constitution should be amended to refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination; Article 41 of the Constitution should be amended so that it would protect family life, with the protection afforded to the family not limited to the marital family; and Article 41.2 of the Constitution should be deleted and replaced with language that is not gender specific and obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community.

A Special Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality was established and met from December 2021 to consider the Citizens Assembly recommendations together with the government’s response.

The Committee concluded its work and published its final report on December 21, 2022. In its report, the Committee set out its own recommendations and an action plan, including recommendations for a referendum or referendums on Articles 40 and 41 of the Constitution.