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The Iona Blog

Economic pressures mean Article 41.2 still needed

Author: Tom O'Gorman
Date: 15th February 2013

Victoria White (pictured) has an excellent piece in today's Irish Examiner arguing forcefully for the retention of Article 41.2, which deals with women in the home.

White makes the excellent-and all too frequently forgotten-point that the article was not designed to keep women in the home, but to protect their rights:

“Article 41.2 recognises the importance of their care work and defends it from economic attack. Quite clearly it needs to refer to men as well as women. But chucking it out would lessen the humanity of the Constitution. The clause was never meant to immure women in their homes. It was meant to protect their rights. When the clause was drafted in the early 1930s staying home was considered by most to be a great privilege.

“Eamon de Valera was very influenced by a little-known feminist historian called Ivy Pinchbeck who analysed the situation of women after the Industrial Revolution and reckoned it had made their lives better because it meant that husbands could often earn enough to provide for their wives at home.”

She also notes that, while the clause wasn't invoked to oppose Charlie McCreevy's tax individualisation proposals, it could be used in the future to protect carers in the home:

“But just because the clause has not been used effectively doesn’t mean it couldn’t be. This may become very important if the motor of western capitalism gets moving again and Europe is suddenly looking for new workers. Instead of importing them from outside the EU, they will look to women at home with kids — what the OECD calls “a waste of human resources”.

“The EU’s Lisbon Strategy (2005) committed Europeans to growing their percentage of women in the workplace from 51 percent to 60 percent by 2010. They never asked women how they felt about this because it didn’t matter. What mattered were “jobs and growth”.

“The OECD’s Babies and Bosses document (2005) which is widely quoted in Irish government policy, actually suggests taking child benefit off women who don’t work outside the home. That would learn them.”

The article, which is well worth reading in full, can be read here.

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