Sunday 3 March 2024

What about individual citizens?

Referendums in this country used to scare the pants off me.

Can a pregnant woman leave the country?
Should a phone number remain illegal?
Is the life of a woman as important as the baby she’s carrying in her womb?

Within two decades of those referendum questions, you’d voted through the world’s first plebiscite on Marriage Equality.

It’s been an exciting privilege to live here over the last 32 years, experiencing this country’s emergence from an oppressed and oppressive past into a modern liberal democracy.

However sometimes it takes an outsider to see what’s going on, and now that Ireland has caught up with the First World on economic and demographic matters, it’s so important that the Irish grasp this chance to change these two Amendments.

They represent anachronistic evidence of how the Church of Rome played midwife to the birth of Ireland’s republic. They have no place in any country’s constitution.

Why on God’s good earth are we asking if a woman’s place is in the home?

Why is the Family with a capital F defined as Ireland’s “… natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society … a moral institution … superior to all positive law...”?

Because that’s the template the Catholic Church traced over Ireland’s nascent constitution.

This is where some of you will write me off as being anti-Catholic Church, and you couldn’t be more wrong.

I’m delighted that you have your faith, and hope it brings you comfort, but the Church belongs in a church, and not in a nation’s constitution.

Tragically, women, carers and lone parents of all genders will continue to serve their families and society with unpaid work, regardless of any so-called protections written into the constitution.

They must be paid for their work and protected by law, with rights imposed by legislation, constantly updated to be economically relevant and viable, by this and every subsequent government.

What of those like me who do not fit into these parameters of protection? I’m divorced, single, childless, with my non-Irish family living in England.

If the family remains natural, primary and fundamental, then that’ll leave me and a whole lot of Irish citizens feeling unnatural, secondary and inconsequential.

Is it too much to ask that our constitution sees us all as equal individuals? In the 21st century every citizen must matter. Each of us is individually primary, a fundamental and unique part of this nation.

During the Tiger years I was a Youth Worker in Ballybane, one of the more socioeconomically challenged areas of Galway City.

Our project was based in what was then called the Family Resource Centre, a title that left
me feeling uneasy.

Ballybane was the early recipient of immigrants from Africa, many of whom were single.

How would they feel when they saw the wording on the exterior of the building?

Why might they feel we were there for them too?

I suggested to the centre director that we change the name, and it became the Community Resource Centre.

I then went door to door, canvassing the local single population, making sure they were made aware that many of the organisations housed under our one roof were there to support them too.

I’m proud to say I’m now an Irish citizen, so I can vote in this referendum, but where a simple YES and YES should be the order of the day, I wonder if I might just abstain.

All of us single souls with no family are invisible in this debate, and it’s quite difficult to feel involved. Many immigrants must feel the same.

It’s such a shame that, just as we have in past referendums, so many rationalise reasons to not vote for positive and necessary change.

Our relationships and family have nothing to do with anyone except us.

Having grown up in England as a mere subject, in a constitutional monarchy with no written constitution, I rather hoped that a modern republic would care primarily for the rights of each citizen.

It’s time to cast off the last of these ancient shackles, and allow Ireland to be as unique as its people have always been.

Hence yes, I will vote YES and YES, because both changes offer less offence than the previous arcane options.


©Charlie Adley

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