Electoral Commission launches information campaign ahead of referenda

Electoral Commission Launches Information Campaign Ahead Of Referenda
Electoral Commission chair Ms Justice Marie Baker, centre,, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

The “worst thing” that could happen in the upcoming referenda campaigns is that no-one cares about them, the chair of Ireland’s new election authority has said.

The Electoral Commission has launched its information campaign for the two votes to be held on March 8th, and sought to clarify for the Irish population what the proposed wording means – suggesting that a “durable” relationship could be defined by whether a couple received a wedding invitation or a Christmas card.


The first plebiscite is on whether the Irish Constitution should be changed to extend the definition of family beyond only those based on marriage to include “durable” relationships.

The second is on whether to delete a reference to the role and duties of women in the home and replace it with a new article on the provision of care.

The Electoral Commission will begin a campaign to inform people about the proposed changes and what they mean, but has stressed that it is not their role to win the referenda for the Government.


Eight-page booklets were being sent out to 2.2 million homes across Ireland ahead of the vote, with the last ones to be delivered by March 1st.

The booklet states that a “durable” relationship means “a family based on different types of committed and continuing relationships other than marriage”.



Chair of the commission Ms Justice Marie Baker said that the words “durable”, “durability” and “enduring” were familiar legal terms.

“Subjectively, a relationship is durable if it’s committed, if it presents itself as committed. If it means to be committed, if it intends to be committed,” she said on Thursday.

“Durability can sometimes be how you’re treated by other people: are you invited as a couple to weddings? Do people send your postcards, Christmas cards to both of you? These are indicators of your commitment to one another.”


Asked about whether debates about polygamy and throuples had overtaken the debate on the referenda, Ms Baker said: “Every debate is good.

Ms Justice Marie Baker
Ms Baker, centre, encouraged people to separate facts from opinions during debates (Grainne Ni Aodha/PA)

“People will inform themselves from that debate, people will form their views from that debate, and so I’m not concerned about that. I think it’s altogether good.

“The worst thing that could happen is that nobody cares about this. I would say everybody should care about what’s in the constitution. Everybody should care as to what it says. And everybody should care as to what they think about it.

“It’s very good that there’s a lot of debate. And I’m very pleased to see it and I will be following it.”

Asked about whether the commission was concerned that the referenda would be a proxy vote on satisfaction with the Government, Ms Baker said: “Maybe I’m being a little bit too positive about this, but I don’t think I am – people really regard the constitution as important. You will often hear people saying ‘that’s unconstitutional’ or ‘I have a constitutional right’.


“So I think ultimately, people will say it’s not appropriate to vote on the Government when we’re voting on our fundamental laws. I hope they do.

“But if that happens, it’s not for us to win or lose this, it is for us to explain it.”

Asked about the potential for misinformation and disinformation during the campaign, Ms Baker encouraged people to separate facts from opinions during debates.

“People should ask themselves whether what they’re reading is an opinion or a fact. And that’s important because a lot of what’s been said to date is opinion,” she said.

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