One Family calls for Yes vote in Family Referendum

One Family is calling on the Irish people to vote Yes Yes on 8 March for families, for care, and for equality

Dublin, Monday 15 January 2024: One Family, Ireland’s national organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, launched its campaign for a Yes Yes vote on the family and care referendums. 

On Friday, 8th March, the nation will vote on the amendment of Constitutional provisions related to family and family care.  The Government last month approved the publication of the Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution (The Family) Bill 2023 and the Fortieth Amendment of the Constitution (Care) Bill 2023. 

The public will be asked to agree to: 

  • amend Article 41 of the Constitution to provide for a wider concept of Family; and 
  • delete Article 41.2 of the Constitution to remove text on the role of women in the home and insert a new Article 42B to recognise family care.

The Family Referendum presents a unique opportunity to end the exclusion of children, parents, and couples in unmarried families from our Constitution and acknowledge their importance. It represents a significant step towards addressing the injustices faced by single and unmarried parents throughout Irish history, including societal discrimination and institutionalisation. This referendum symbolises reparation and recognition for those who have long been shamed. Through this referendum, the Constitution will extend its protection to various types of families, such as unmarried parents and their children, one-parent families and unmarried couples.

Speaking at the launch Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, stated: We in One Family are so delighted to finally be here launching our Yes campaign for Article 41.3 so that all families can be included in our Constitution. We are standing on the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of children and parents, particularly mothers, who were shamed, incarcerated, and forcibly torn apart from each other because of the absolute privileging of marriage in our Constitution and a society that supported this.” 

In 1972, Mary Kerrigan became an unmarried mother and went on to run Cherish (now One Family) in Clare and Limerick. She commented, “When I was out with my baby in 1970s Limerick and Clare, people would say who owns the baby? I would answer I do. The next comment was I did not know you got married. I would say I didn’t. End of conversation. During that time, an unmarried mother and her child were not welcome in our society.    

“I volunteered with Cherish for 15 years and the women of Cherish were responsible for campaigning to change much of the discrimination that existed, but here we are 52 years later still campaigning to be brought included in our most basic document – our Constitution.  

“I know that a family is about love and care, not just marriage or two parents. Children have an inbuilt belief that the people they live with and care for them is their family. It’s natural, so what kind of people have the mind to override that sacred bond of the family? Yet the Constitution of Ireland denies me and my son its protection.   I love my country, but I do not feel like my country has ever really loved me.”

Breda Murray, a single mother and a grandmother, explained how she has some children who are Constitutionally protected and some that are not: “My two eldest children were born to me in an unmarried relationship and my last two children were born in a marriage that has now ended. There is absolutely no difference in how I love them and care for them, and no difference for them in how they love me as their mother.   

“It is disappointing that our Constitution makes this unnecessary distinction between my children as two live in a Constitutional family and two do not. Ireland must change this archaic and discriminatory clause so that all children can receive the same rights and protections as each other whether their parents are married or not.”  

Speaking in a personal capacity, Dr Fergus Ryan, Associate Professor in Law and Head of the School of Law and Criminology at Maynooth University says: “Article 41 of the Constitution addresses the Family, but excludes a wide range of families from constitutional recognition in Article 41, including unmarried cohabiting couples and lone unmarried parents raising children. The proposed amendment on the Family will, if passed, change this, widening the constitutional understanding of family in Article 41 to recognise, in line with reality, a broader range of family types. This is a welcome and long overdue proposal, reflecting long-standing calls for reform.  

“The care referendum proposes to modernise a deeply antiquated and gendered provision that currently signals a particular confined role for women and mothers while, on its face, implicitly downgrading the role of fathers and men in family caregiving. 

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO said: “We urge Ireland to vote Yes on 8 March for the sake of people like Mary and her son, Breda and her children, and all families who have been unfairly shamed and punished since 1937 for not being Constitutional married families and for the 40% of children being born now to parents who are not married to each other.   

“This is an opportunity for voters to tell the Government that we want families to be treated equally in terms of tax, welfare and housing. 

“We need to pass this referendum before we lose the founders of our organisation who are in their 80s, and the many other thousands of mothers and children who were excluded from society for so long. They are asking the Irish people to let them finally be ‘real’ families. Ireland let same sex couples marry and be families, let’s do the same for all the children, parents and couples who just happen not to be married – let’s bring them in from the cold and into our country’s Constitution.”  

Continuing Ms. Kiernan stated “One Family is also advocating for a Yes vote in relation to Care and the removal of outdated sexist language from the Constitution and the replacement with gender-neutral recognition of care within the family, reflecting the reality of family life today. These forward-thinking referendums aim to promote greater equality for all families, including those involved in receiving and providing care and support.” 


For Editors:

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s national organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the askonefamily national helpline on 0818 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. For further information, visit

Relevant Statistics:

  • Just over two in five (40.9%) births were outside marriage/civil partnership in Q2 2023 (CSO Vital Statistics Second Quarter 2023). 
  • Almost 220,000 family households (17%) were headed by one parent in 2022. This included 186,487 one-parent mother families, and 33,509 one-parent father families (Census 2022 Reports – CSO). 
  • Since 2016, the number of cohabiting couples without children living in private households went up by 17%, more than twice the growth rate of married couples in the same category (Census 2022).

Available for Interview:

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO

Mary Kerrigan, Founder of Cherish, Single Mother and Grandmother

Breda Murray, Single Mother and Grandmother

Dr Fergus Ryan, Associate Professor in Law and Head of the School of Law and Criminology at Maynooth University

Further Information/Scheduling:

Laura Curtin, Communications Manager

t: 086 8537043