Thread by Geraldine Halpin on Mother's Day, 10th March 2024

Happy Mother's Day!  A momentous one. The sink is full of dishes and my children are eating apples for dinner so I can engage in a domestic activity almost as ancient as motherhood and quite as redolent with symbolism. I am making thread. I will spin you a yarn.

From the beginning, this referendum was a puzzler. No one wanted it but we were told we'd asked for it. It was just a little sprucing up of the Constitution but for some reason it was incredibly urgent. A citizens' assembly provided the recommendations but was ignored.

So what was it all about? Let me adjust my tinfoil hat a little and say i don't really know but a few things spring to mind. I don't think that the recent puff pieces on surrogacy are wholly unconnected to removing mother from the constitution. It's a norm you need to undermine if you want to hide the abuse and exploitation involved in renting women and buying babies. Surrogacy is illegal here but a backdoor is being sketched out for those who decide to beg for forgiveness, and fake birth certs, later.

I was also struck by the push for euthanasia right when the State was trying to place the burden of care, all types, squarely on the family, a situation the State would "strive to support" IF you could get your day in court.

Those of us paying attention will also have noticed the repeating pattern of making things "gender neutral".  Not that the male defaultery of the Constitution would be changed, no, we were to excise "woman" and "mother", conspicuous by their rarity in a solid block of text about the hes and hims who are property owners, TDs and children.  Removing references to women in matters that pertain exclusively (mothers) or largely (carers) to women is not gender neutrality but gender neutering. Laws too coy to mention females by name lose potency.

But the most obviously mysterious part of the business to everyone was the Family amendment and that Scarlet Pimpernel of the legal world, durable relationship(s). Whatever it was, it was going to fix everything. Today, validating families, tomorrow, who knows?

No, really, who knows? Because TDs couldn't get their stories straight at all on what it was supposed to do so go get a bit of tinfoil there and contemplate what it might have been intended to do.  Write a conterfactual about it because whatever it was, it's been stymied now.

But, when it comes to how this referendum was won, or lost, depending on your point of view, i don't find that to be so mysterious. To begin, a positively uncanny number of Irish people have mothers. Now, i know the plural of anecdote is not data but everyone i know has one!

So erasing the, perhaps imperfectly worded, recognition and protection of mothers out of the Constitution seemed a bit hasty. And then the collapsing of mother and carer into "family member" was a loss of detail that made no sense. It conceals who gives care by giving credit to everyone and potentially placing a burden of care onto those who can't or shouldn't do so.  And by squeezing all forms of care into a single word we lose sight of the people who receive care, children, PwD and the elderly and what their various needs or wishes might be.

Enter women.  Women who fielded phone calls from people who decided to phone a friend before making their choice. Who thrashed out their ideas on forums and in WhatsApp groups. Or talked about their particular situation, their sister, their friend, their neighbour and got people thinking. The school gate, the bus queue, the checkout, an article here, a video there, a fact check, a clip snatched off the radio. Then there were the women with stickers, leaflets, posters, even canvassing. They took the marginal, buried NoNo bits and bites and managed to share them around to as many people as they possibly could, loaves and fishes style. All while doing everything else women have to do to keep the world spinning. That's where you'll find the generosity and compassion the YesYes campaign warned we'd better have.

So don't go looking under the bed for christofascists or the far right and ignore us. Women did this for a lot of very good reasons, not least because we care. We think everyone deserves better. You may not have noticed but it's not our first rodeo.

And it won't be our last.