The assembly on gender equality is debating the issue of Article 41.1 on the family, which states: “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The 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.”
Mary Robinson, who served as president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, remembers getting “quite a lot of pushback” when she was seeking to win a Dáil seat in the 1970s and 1980s. Politics aside, she got a lot of flak for being a mother who was seeking election. “You should be at home, minding the child, not coming around,” she remembers some voters bluntly remarking.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wants to allow Irish politicians to take a care off for parental leave, and potentially to job share, as is increasingly common in business. “To do so in Ireland would require a modification of the electoral system but is perhaps something I think we could consider; something that I think would be of benefit to women and to men and to broader society,” he said.