Statement on the Care Referendum

Statement on the Care Referendum March 8

Disability Power Ireland are happy to announce that we have decided to join the Equality Not Care Campaign.

We feel that it is important to lend as much weight as possible to the strong voices in the disabled community and in this campaign which have been calling for a progressive No vote in the Care Referendum. We wish to aid public understanding as to the progressive reasons why so many in the disabled community are choosing to vote No to the Amendment. 

We wholeheartedly agree that Article 41.2 must be removed from the Constitution, for its sexist implications that women’s roles should be relegated to the home. But we believe that we must aim for a full and inclusive victory and get the wording right the first time. We believe no wording should be put into the Constitution, a cornerstone defining the values of a nation, which does not support the rights and values of its citizens. We ask for social movements to work together with the disability rights’ movement to create an inclusive replacement for the article from the outset. 

This is because we do not have faith in the Government’s ability to listen to the disabled community, as they continue to show us time and time again. We have no faith that an appeal to build on and provide more specific and adequate wording in the paragraph around care will be heard following its insertion into the Constitution.

Our concerns about this new paragraph include that it makes no reference to the right to personal assistance, that there is no definition of care or personal assistance in the constitution, and that it puts the obligation on providing such services to family members within the home, thus further diminishing the government’s obligations to provide these services under the UNCRPD.  As such, the new paragraph will constitutionally enshrine the medical model of care and deny the right to independent living that all disabled people have under international law (e.g. Article 19 UNCRPD)

We support the Free Legal Advice Center’s Statement on the Referendum, including their concerns that “the amendment would give constitutional expression to harmful stereotypes such as the concept that the provision of care, including the care of older adults and adults with disabilities, is the private responsibility of unpaid family members without any guarantee of State support. Like the explicitly sexist so-called ‘women in the home’ provision, the proposed Article 42B endorses a status quo where women undertake the bulk of unpaid care work and places no obligation whatsoever on the State to redress this gender imbalance – rendering it an implicitly sexist amendment.”

Considering that 98% of full-time carers are women and their work is largely invisible and undervalued (according to a recent study by ActionAid and NWCI), the new paragraph will ironically continue to reinforce the stereotypical notions that a woman’s place is in the home, suggesting that care work be undertaken solely by the family without the right to any state supports or personal assistance. An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, recently revealed that he thinks this support is not the government’s responsibility to provide.

There are some who have said they are frustrated that the disabled voice has taken so long to get their position across. We would like to remind those who take this view that this is a result of disabled voices being so marginalised within society and the government’s failure to include us in consultative processes, which is their obligation under the UNCRPD. Instead, most of our DPOs remain completely unfunded, and getting our point across relies on the labour of unpaid disabled grassroots volunteers and community activists. 

Voting No will enable the process to begin again, this time ensuring that the views of disabled people and their DPOs are included in the consultative process when re-wording the amendment to one that upholds the rights and values of its citizens. 

1st March 2024