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As Ireland’s UPC bandwagon lurches from a headlong rush to a premature halt, why the wild ride? Well, as the saying goes, a week is a long time in politics - and the past few weeks in Irish politics have been tumultuous.

 

In referendums held in March 2024, a complacent government failed to convince the Irish people to accept its proposed changes to outdated language in the 1937 Constitution about the role of women and the nature of the family. The proposals were defeated so utterly that shockwaves reverberated to the top. Soon afterwards, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stepped down, exhausted.

While the Irish political world was distracted by the election of a new Taoiseach, the ambitious timescale set for the UPC referendum ticked away.

 

The new Taoiseach, Simon Harris, is now in office but with less than two months left before the planned referendum, no official information has been broadcast to help the Irish people to understand the UPC. The information vacuum has already been filled with misinformation and wilful ignorance, including depressing social media posts along the lines of 'I don't know anything about the UPC - but if the government and the EU want it, I'll vote against it'.

 

Comments like these reflect populist opposition to ministers who have been in government for several years and are nearing the end of their term in office. With the bruising experience of the March referendums and being worried about an unpredictable electorate, it seems that Mr. Harris doesn't want to risk another defeat so soon into his new job. Instead, his focus now will be on the general election that must be held within the next year in Ireland.

 

Despite the tight timescale and the intricacies of the UPC, we believe that a confident government could, and should, have put its case to the people in time for the planned referendum. Now, though, it seems highly unlikely that the UPC referendum will happen until after the general election. If so, we hope that the next Irish government will have the willpower and the communication skills to put the UPC question to properly-informed voters at the earliest opportunity.

 

Ongoing delay in Ireland's ratification of the UPC is unhelpful to the Irish economy and could weaken Ireland's common-law influence on the evolution of the new system. However, being conscious that a defeat would be more damaging than a delay, we take heart that the Irish government remains committed to the UPC project.

Continue reading about The Irish UPC ‘neverendum’?
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