February 20, 2024
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald launches party’s referendum campaign

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has launched the party’s campaign for the upcoming referendum on family and carers.

Speaking at the launch event in Dublin today, Teachta McDonald said:

Equality and fairness have to be at the very heart of our constitution. Not simply as lofty ideas or abstractions, but real, living values that shape the world we live in.

All families deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. All people with disabilities and all carers, should get the support that they need and deserve.

In this way, the wording in this referendum, we believe, was an opportunity missed by government. A government whose abysmal track record for families and carers is clear for all to see.

They have failed to use the carefully considered wording recommended by the Citizen’s Assembly. And they’ve still not given any explanation for this. After years of dragging their heels and failing to act on promises to hold this referendum.

They’ve now suddenly rushed the process. We believe their wording lacks ambition and the ability to deliver the real and meaningful change carers need.

So with this in mind, Sinn Féin have carefully considered the referendum. 
We are calling for a Yes vote on both counts. Yes to equality. Yes to fairness. Because we see in these referendums, small steps in the right direction.

However, let me be very, very clear, this must be followed by concrete changes for families and carers that deliver a change that they can feel and experience in their day to day lives.

Senator Lynn Boylan, who is here with us today, a proven campaigner on social justice issues, will be our Campaign Director.

Government talks about ‘striving’ to support carers. Striving isn’t enough. Real change is needed.

We support bringing our constitution up to date, to reflect the values of modern Ireland, an Ireland in which everyone is valued, cherished and supported.

But, this referendum needs to be about much more than that. We believe that this referendum has to be a catalyst and a driver for meaningful change.

Concrete measures that will make a real difference in the lives of families, people with disabilities and their carers. Deeds, not words. Change, not platitudes.

This referendum, therefore, must be only the start. The start of an Ireland in which families and carers’ voices are finally heard. And, acted upon. 

Everyday carers across this state, do incredibly important work as they provide care for a loved one. They do this day in, day out. Often without recognition and with little support.

They feel badly let down by government, who fail time and time again to hear their demands for change. Demands for equality, recognition and respect. 

We are conscious that carers are divided on this referendum. And their reticence is understandable. Carers have been let down time and time again by government and they need more than the state merely stating it will ‘strive’ to support them.

For too long, families have been marginalised and felt excluded for not meeting outdated and archaic tropes. All families must be recognised and cherished, single parent families, cohabiting couples, parents who are not married.
The government have chosen to propose very minimal changes and the question for Sinn Féin is to support some change or no change at all. We have come to the decision to support the upcoming proposals on the basis that some change is better than none, but regardless of the outcome of the referendum, Government must do much more.

For example, the Programme for Government committed to reviewing and updating the National Carers’ Strategy and extending free GP care to carers in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant. Yet a recent report by Family Carers Ireland shows no progress has been made on either count. I think we can agree that is not acceptable.

In this referendum, critically in this referendum, government has now set a test for itself. 

Ní mór dúinn fíor-athrú a fheiceáil. Sheasfadh rialtas Shinn Féin an fód ar son cúramóirí agus chinnteodh muid go dtabharfar tacaíocht agus aitheantas dóibh.

We need to see genuine change. A Sinn Féin government, if elected, would stand up for carers and ensure they are finally supported and recognised for the crucial role that they play. Regardless of the result of this referendum, carers and families must be respected and supported. That is what we will keep pushing for.

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