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10th Mar 2024

Taoiseach admits “two wallops” for government after referendum rejection

Simon Kelly

Taoiseach referendum

“Clearly, I was incorrect.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has admitted that the government has suffered “two wallops” as the Irish public firmly rejected both Family and Care referendums after Friday’s vote.

Speaking at Dublin Castle on Saturday, Varadkar said that he accepts the public’s decision, admitting that the government “failed” to convince the majority to vote Yes.

The final turnout for the vote nationwide was a very low 44.36%.

The results of both referendums were comprehensive, with the Family amendment being rejected by 67.7% of voters, while the Care amendment was rejected by 73.9%.

“I think it’s clear at this stage that the family amendment and the care referendums have been defeated,” said Varadkar. “Defeated comprehensively on respectable turn out.

“The Government accepts the results and will respect it. As head of Government, on behalf of the Government, we accept responsibility for the results.

“It was our responsibility to convince the majority of people to vote yes and we clearly failed to do so.

“I think we struggled to convince people of the necessity or need for the referendum at all, let alone the detail and the wording. That’s obviously something we’re going to have to reflect on in some of the weeks ahead.”

Taoiseach admits “two wallops” for government after referendum rejection

The Taoiseach continued by referring to the infamous Enda Kenny line after the after the defeat of the 2013 Seanad referendum.

“We clearly got it wrong. Enda Kenny famously said once that the electorate often gives the government a wallop. This is two wallops.”

Mr Varadkar said that while he was “confident” the referendums would pass when the campaigns were launched, over the last few weeks he became “increasingly concerned” about the care referendum in particular.

“I thought we were in a stronger place on the family referendum. Clearly, I was incorrect.”

Speaking at the Cork count centre, Tánaiste Micheál Martin was asked about the possibility of a referendum rerun, however he replied: “certainly not in the lifetime of this Government,” adding that is was now up to future parties.

The overwhelming rejection of both amendments will be seen as a huge blow to the current government.

Some other parties are indeed looking for a rerun, with People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy saying on X, formerly Twitter: “Crap wording, crap campaign, crap government. This is the result.

“Left parties should commit to proposing a referendum recognising and supporting care inside and outside of the home and the rights of people with disabilities.”

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