…and the government is panicking.
The Irish government has voiced fear that the upcoming referendum on the position of women and the family in the Irish constitution may be hijacked by the so-called “far-right.” Elements of the referendum will have implications for immigration, and this will prove pivotal.
The two referenda are scheduled to take place on March 8th 2024, International Women’s Day. It will alter article 41 of the Irish constitution to widen the legal definition of the family unit, and to replace article 41.2 which recognises the role of women in the home, to a generalised, and gender neutral, alternative.
The government’s concern that the far-right may “threaten the outcome” of this referendum indicates a not-so-democratic presumption on their part; that they are implementing the referendum based on presumption they will win, not because they want to poll the Irish people.
On the face of it, this referendum appears to be no less than legislative virtue signalling. So why is it that the Irish government is concerned about the meddlesome intervention of dissenting voices?
Immigration has, within the span of the last year, become the most prominent issue in Irish politics, a fact the government is all-too-vexed to acknowledge. With 74% of Irish people believing that the country has taken in too many immigrants, the coalition government is both fearful and agitated that the political consequences of their policy mismanagement will come back to bite them.
Fine Gael TD, Neale Richmond, has admitted that the upcoming referendum is, in part, designed to facilitate a larger eligibility scope for immigration applications. On the topic of the referendum, Richmond commented: “This has serious consequences, particularly when we think of immigration law and proving that someone is a family member…or family reunification. This will allow that to be accommodated as well.”
As such, by the government’s own design, and not those of far-right boogeymen, has the upcoming referendum been painted as one in which the issue of immigration may come to the forefront of the Irish electorate.
The government has time and time again condemned the introduction of culture wars type political rhetoric into the Irish setting, but are wont to neglect that they themselves are responsible for their own political nightmares. This referendum is, by nature, one in which the progressive feminist supporters of mass-migration sitting in Leinster House are embattling themselves against those whose convictions and beliefs they consider anathema to very principles of utopian civil society.
The government is fearful that political dissidents may get a leg-up on them in this upcoming referendum given their history of political failures to amend the Irish constitution. 54% of Irish people voted no to the first Nice referendum, furthermore 53% voted no to the first Lisbon referendum. In both cases, the Irish government used the excuse of low voter turnout to conduct a successful second referendum. Furthermore, Ireland voted against immigration in the 2004 citizenship referendum, which sought to prevent immigrants from obtaining Irish citizenship through anchor babies and the exploitation of legislative loop-holes.
In an RTÉ interview, Simon Harris stated that the referendum was necessary to modernise the Irish constitution and to remove gendered, sexist language, stating in no uncertain terms that “this is not a referendum for which the outcome, in any way shape or form can be taken for granted.” Furthermore, Harris requested the support of all parties in Dáil Éireann to pull together and provide a united front in favour of the referendum.
Minister Simon Harris has called on all parties to "pull together" ahead of next years referendum on women's duties in the home, while Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin warns of a potential lack of energy due to wording | Listen to RTÉ's Your Politics Podcast: https://t.co/wZcAKEp2Bs pic.twitter.com/qXjL4rhcKj— RTÉ News (@rtenews) December 28, 2023
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, in the same interview, warned that the referendum may, given the lack of political energy in civil society groups or NGOs at the current time, become a referendum on a different topic altogether.
In fact, so concerned is the Irish government with facing the political consequences of their failures, that on the same referendum ballot was originally planned a referendum to allow Irish citizens overseas to vote in Presidential elections. Following Conor McGregor’s outspoken criticisms of the government, and proposition to run for office, however, the government have canned the ballot as the idea no longer benefits their political interests.
At a time when a government Minister refers to a lax border policy which, in effect facilitates mass-migration, as “the new normal”, there can be no doubt that the upcoming referendum is fundamentally about immigration.
If the function of referenda in a democratic society is to have the public engage, and decide on a specific policy which will have far-reaching implications on their society, then the Irish government’s conduct by its very nature undermines the democratic principles which they use to virtue-shield themselves from political criticism.
Government campaigning in favour of the referendum, and the brazen comments made by Roderic O’Gorman and Simon Harris about ensuring its passage into law indicate a not-so democratic presumption on their part that either a) they will win implicitly, or b) they will use all the political tools available to them, ranging from civil society groups to NGOs, to ensure that the referendum is passed. In such a scenario, the government’s admission is clear – Irish democracy is a farce.