Irish government’s efforts to modernise the Constitution were defeated as the family and care referendums received 67% and 74% “no” votes, respectively. The proposed changes aimed at amending Article 41 of the Constitution of Ireland.

The family referendum sought to expand the definition to encompass “durable relationships” beyond marriage. The care referendum aimed to replace outdated language about a “mother’s duties in the home” with recognition for care provided by family members.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar described the defeat as a comprehensive loss with a respectable turnout of 44%. The government had hoped to use the votes held on International Women’s Day to embed inclusivity and equality in the Constitution, which dates back to 1937.

Critics, including feminist and progressive groups, argued that the government’s campaign was lacklustre and confusing, leading to voter perplexity and the alienation of progressive allies.

The rejection is a blow to the government, opposition parties, and advocacy groups that supported a “yes-yes” vote. The turnout of 44% was a drop from the 64% seen in the 2018 elections.

The yes campaign received only 32% support for the family referendum and 26% for the care referendum, contrary to expectations that the setback would be attributed to a conservative backlash. Some feminist and progressive groups advocated for “no” votes, citing vague or insipid proposals.

The Lawyers For No group found fault with the wording and lack of legislative scrutiny, expressing concerns about unintended effects. They considered it an emphatic repudiation of perceived unwise social experimentation with the Constitution.

Worries surfaced about the potential impact on tax and citizenship rules if the definition of family was broadened. Some argued that shifting the burden of care from women to the entire family neglected the state’s responsibility.

The defeat led to embarrassment for the government of Ireland, triggering calls for resignations, including from figures like the children’s minister, Roderic O’Gorman. However, it is not expected to destabilise the ruling coalition of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Greens.

Green party leader and transport minister Eamon Ryan said there would be no attempt at another referendum before the next election. The issue is expected to be revisited by the next government, considering the campaign and the arguments that led to the “no” vote in both cases.