Taoiseach slams 'sexist and backward' Irish constitution

Leo Varadkar

Ireland's premier has described parts of the Irish constitution as "sexist and backward".

Referring to the controversial clause which prioritises a women's domestic role, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar slammed it as "insulting and outdated" and called for it to be removed form the constitution.

Mr Varadkar also told the first International Congress of Parliamentary Women's Caucuses that women are underrepresented in decision-making structures across private and public sectors.

Speaking at Dublin Castle about the clause which refers to a woman's place in the home, Mr Varadkar said: "Despite some of the changes we have made to the Irish constitution in recent months, many aspects of the Irish constitution are still sexist and still backward.

"I know there are some people who are opposed to changing this, to taking this language out of our constitution, saying it's only symbolic.

"But I think symbols and gestures matter.

"A women's place is where she wants it to be and our constitution should say no different.

"So as a government we support a referendum on the role of women at home, (to) remove this outdated and insulting language from our constitution, without diminishing the good work that carers do in our society."

The global gathering includes parliamentarians and diplomats representing more than 40 countries, including the UK, Australia, the US and Malawi, as well as activists, writers, artists and academics.

The event is discussing issues facing women and how parliamentarians can work to address them.

In his address, Mr Varadkar said that 19 women have held ministerial roles in the Irish government.

"But it's still far too few and something has to change," he added.

"Barriers that women face when it comes to full and equal participation in political process are many.

"A lack of encouragement can sometimes lead to a lack of confidence.

"We need a change in our culture as well as a change in our policies."

He also said that job sharing roles in government is becoming increasingly popular.

"I'm absolutely certain we get better decisions and outcomes when there is a diversity of views and backgrounds around the table," he added.

"Part of the solution has to be reducing the barriers facing many mothers working outside of the home.

"Women are still very much underrepresented in the decision making structures and across all sectors."

Earlier this year the Republic of Ireland backed a referendum to liberalise its abortion laws.

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled there were no grounds to hear an appeal of a decision by the Court of Appeal to uphold the High Court's rejection of a challenge to the abortion referendum result.

Mr Varadkar said that following this decision, the Government will be able to bring in legislation over the next few months, allowing women to use the abortion services from early next year.

"In the battle for women's rights and women's freedoms, in Ireland over 100 years ago many windows were smashed and women's right for freedom was won.

"Now we have to decide what type of society we want to see through."

More from News