FLAC calls for proposed constitutional amendments to be strengthened

FLAC calls for proposed constitutional amendments to be strengthened

Eilis Barry

FLAC has repeated its call for the proposed family and care amendments to the Constitution to bring in “enforceable rights” rather than only symbolic change.

The access to justice charity has also urged government ministers to publish draft legislation spelling out proposed new rights for diverse families.

Eilis Barry, FLAC chief executive, said: “The Constitution is not just about symbolism. It is our fundamental, overarching legal document — setting out the core rights of citizens and defining and setting the parameters of the role and responsibilities of the State.

“The wording of the amendments is key and will determine whether the new provisions require to State to provide real improvements in people’s lives and rights.”

FLAC has set out recommendations for “straightforward alternations to the wordings” which it wants the government to adopt before the 8 March referendums.

Ms Barry said: “We are concerned that the government has yet to clearly explain what improvements in law and policy the proposed wordings will bring about.

“We don’t believe that the ‘care’ amendment as drafted will create a meaningful obligation on the State to support childcare, eldercare and independent-living for people with disabilities.

“We believe that the ‘family’ amendment will require the State to provide supports previously only available to marital families to families based on long-term co-habitation. It may also have implications for social welfare and taxation law more broadly, and for family and succession law.

“Research which has been conducted in this area by the Inter-Departmental Referendums Group should be published, as well as draft legislation outlining the changes the amendment will bring about.

“The absence of any proposed legislative changes heightens the risk of misinformation during the referendum campaign. The lack of legislative proposals defining what these new provisions mean will also result in diverse families being forced to look to the courts to define and give effect to their new constitutional rights.”

She added: “With the referendum bills still at the early stages of the legislative process, there is still time for these concerns to be addressed and for the full potential of these referendums to be realised.”

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