A ‘Yes’ vote on the forthcoming referendum on care would enable citizens – including the parents of people with disabilities – to take the Government to court to ensure the State does enough to support them, according to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman.
He said it would also put an onus on the Government to provide more funding for disability services in future Budgets.
While accepting there would be no “immediate, tangible” benefit from a Yes vote it would improve the policies and rights around care.
“You do not set a policy in the Constitution, but you set a direction and you bring policy in that direction,” he said.
There will be two separate referendums taking place on 8 March.
The care referendum proposes removing Article 41.2 which states that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved” and Article 41.2.2 which says that the State “shall 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.”
If passed it would be replaced with a new Article 42B to say: “The State recognises that the provision of care by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them, gives to Society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved, and shall strive to support such provision.”
The wording falls short of what had been proposed by the Citizen’s Assembly to include the provision of care in the wider community and not just in the home.
Wording ‘flies in the face of UN Convention’
Independent Senator, Tom Clonan, has argued that the term “strive to” renders the provision meaningless.
Senator Clonan also argued that the wording “flies in the face of the aspiration for independence and autonomy, the right to independence and autonomy for disabled citizens as set out in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
He said the reference to care within the home and between family members, without mentioning supports in the wider community or outside the home, “gives constitutional expression to that paternalistic and disempowering approach.”
At the launch of the Green Party’s campaign for a Yes vote in this referendum, and a Yes vote in the referendum to change the definiton of family, Minister O’Gorman said he would “strongly disagree with that interpretation.”
“We are looking to put in place an onus on the State to support family care,” he said.
“There are different dimensions to that. Somebody who is living with a family member and goes out every day to work and is supported by a personal assistant, a PA, that is an essential element of their care, but is also an essential element in terms of delivering greater independence to them as well.
“Those different elements, the infrastructure that supports care is broad. We know we have to do more.
“We all recognise that we have to do more to support care particularly in relation to disability.”
He said if there referendum is passed, the provision “would be binding on future government to make sure that they continue to support and grow the levels of support for care”.
“It will be relevant to negotiations around the Budget and ultimately I have no doubt it will be interpreted by the Supreme Court in cases where individuals – Irish citizens – who feel that the government of the day isn’t doing enough to support their care,” Minister O’Gorman said.