From the moment I became aware of the wording of our Constitution’s (Bunreacht na hÉireann) Article 41.2 (I was 12 years old at the time), I believed it to be loaded with inflammatory, chauvinistic, bigoted, and sexist nonsense. That was my opinion then, and it remains my opinion today. Therefore, I’m glad that before the year is out, a referendum will be held to make changes to this Article’s wording.
Let me explain! In my opinion, Article 41.2, which decrees that ‘by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved’, not only discriminates against women, it’s also reductionist and highly prejudiced. In addition, the fact that it proclaims ‘that State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home’ makes it downright degrading and dehumanising to women.
Don’t get me wrong, my disgust at this Article’s wording is not based primarily on the fact that one of my least favourite historic characters, Éamon de Valera, climbed down from his high horse long enough to personally supervise the drafting of this legal document; because he did have help. Dev’s co-conspirators (my words) were, I believe, the then president of the Supreme Court and the High Court, and Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid – all men!
Oh there were three female TDs present in the Dáil during the formulation of our Constitution, but history tells us they never contributed to this fundamental and important discussion regarding how Ireland, its citizens, and in particular how Irish women, should be ‘governed’. Yep, they kept their mouths shut! This was a decision that I believe – in some small way – led to the discriminatory impact and to the systematic attempt by Dev and his government (via Article 41.2) to limit the rights and to suppress the lives of us, and of our female ancestors for nearly 90 years.
Mind you, given the repressive and patriarchal environment in which these female TDs ‘existed’, I imagine they were quite possibly afraid of any backlash from the Long Fella, who, although credited with ‘writing’ a Constitution stripping them of their rights, clearly lacked the legal skills to do so. However, he did have enough cop-on to devise what I’d call a set of archaic notions to ratify a Constitution, and in particular, an Article that served to relegate women to permanent inferiority. Indeed, as many aspects of Dev’s warped and sexist ideology still impacts on women’s lives today (the gender pay gap to mention just one), I have to ask, is it any wonder people either loved him or loathed him?
For the record, my feelings for Dev fall into the latter category – and not just because his doctrine and his so-called principles objectified women, obstructing our rights, but also because I believe he betrayed my hero Michael Collins, the greatest Irish man that ever lived!
The decision to hold a referendum to remove the reference to ‘a woman’s place’ being ‘in the home’ and replacing it with non-discriminatory and gender-neutral terminology is long overdue. In its current state, the outdated and backward wording of Article 41.2 not only unjustly serves to prioritise the rights of a certain gender, thus allowing too much power to fall into too few hands, it also creates a division between Irish citizens.
As far as this proud Irish woman is concerned, because of this Article, our country has, for way too long, been shrouded in patriarchal and sexist views. Therefore ladies, if we truly value our equality, we should grab this November referendum – the wording of which won’t be known until June – with both hands as an ideal opportunity to once and for all, enshrine our equality in society.
Our day has come to not just honour ourselves, but to also thank and show our esteem and salute those 300 amazing, courageous women whose heroic and vital roles fighting in the 1916 Rising (many of whom fought on the frontline) were disgustingly downplayed by our Constitution’s architect, Éamon De Valera. How dare he try to airbrush them out of our history!
RWN: Empowering women and saving the environment!
I’m all about Girl Power this week readers, therefore I’d like to say a big thank you to the lovely ladies of the Roscommon Women’s Network (RWN) who invited myself and my colleagues to drop into their innovative and creative CycleUp event, which they hosted at the Riverside Centre, Athleague.
This friendly and welcoming group of local women (including fellow Dub, the lovely Philomena Hourigan) are providing an important environmental and social enterprise scheme specifically based on addressing the important issue of textile waste.
The ladies, who won a STAR Award in 2021 for their Sustainable Development through Education project, are a highly impressive bunch. They welcomed us with tea and biscuits, sending us on our way with some beautiful native wildflower seed bombs which I’ll plant in memory of my infant grandson, our beautiful little angel Danny (RIP), born sleeping before Christmas. If the day ever comes when I feel capable of getting through an entire column without crying, I’ll tell you all about baby Danny… but I digress.
Not only are the Roscommon Women’s Network championing and empowering the ladies in their communities, they’re also offering and delivering free training, education, and support to them – in particular, and importantly to those who may feel marginalised, all provided in a safe, non-judgemental environment.
So readers, next time you’re searching for an item for your home or a gift for your loved one, please consider dropping in and supporting these wonderful women. Not only will you source a uniquely designed and crafted gift, you’ll also learn a thing or two about the impact of textile waste on our environment.
For more information, email email@example.com.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig daoibh!
Even though I was very disappointed at Dublin actor Barry Keoghan’s failure to win the Oscar (because I believe, hand on heart, that he richly deserved it – yep he was robbed), I’m delighted we did at least get to enjoy some success, bagging what are two historic wins.
Comhghairdeas to An Irish Goodbye’s Ross White and Tom Berkeley, who won Best Live Action Short, and to Richard Baneham for taking what was his second visual-effects Oscar for his work on Avatar: The Way of Water.
I don’t wish to be a bad influence, but perhaps we should all take a day off from observing Lent (well those who are observing it), and let our hair down this St Patrick’s weekend by raising a glass of our favourite tipple to the fourteen nominees who travelled to LA last week! The entire contingent did both themselves and our little country proud – and they certainly didn’t deserve to be given, what I believe to be, the cold shoulder by those academy snobs; then again I’m biased, believing we should have walked away with more awards!
Still in St Patrick’s Day in mode folks, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a happy bank holiday festival weekend; enjoy the many parades being held across our beautiful county of Roscommon. Stay safe, drown the bit of shamrock, and celebrate all that makes us Irish!