People at Heart of Care Referendum Urge Strong ‘YesYes’ Vote

Posted on Tuesday 20 February 2024


Pictured at the 'We Care' event, co-hosted by Family Carers Ireland and the National Women's Council, are from right, disability activist Shelly Gaynor; family carer Paul Skelly who cares for his daughter Ciara; Jack O'Donovan; family carer Lynsey O’Donovan who cares for her son Jack; and young carer Shauna Tighe who helps care for her brother Daniel. PHOTO: Mark Stedman

Tuesday, 20th February 2024: A special event titled “We Care” in Dublin today heard powerful testimonies in support of a ‘YesYes’ vote in the upcoming referendums, focusing on the referendum on care.

‘We Care,’ co-hosted by Family Carers Ireland and the National Women’s Council (NWC) who are part of a wider platform of civic society organisations, brought together family carers, disability activists and ‘YesYes’ advocates from various backgrounds to share their personal experiences and challenges, and discussed how a 'YesYes' vote would represent a vital step towards changing how the State recognises and values care.

Speakers included family carers Paul Skelly, Shauna Tighe and Lynsey O’Donovan; disability activist Shelly Gaynor; advocate for workplace equity Sonya Lennon and independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins. The event was chaired by Maebh Harding, Assistant Professor, UCD Sutherland School of Law.

At the heart of the event were the personal stories of family carers Paul Skelly and young carer Shauna Tighe who spoke openly about the daily struggles they face and their hopes for a better future. Their stories underscored the critical need for a 'YesYes' vote to bring about meaningful change in the lives of countless families across Ireland.

Paul Skelly, who alongside his wife Moira cares for their daughter Ciara (29) who has epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism, and global developmental delay, highlighted the significance of the referendums: "A 'YesYes' vote is not just a mark on a ballot; it's a lifeline for families like mine. It's about acknowledging the round-the-clock care provided by men and women, the sacrifices we make every day and can act as a stepping stone to improved supports and services for families like mine."

Shauna Tighe (20), who helps care for her brother Daniel (16) who has Sotos syndrome and requires 24/7 care, emphasised the need for broader recognition and support: "Caring for Daniel is a big part of my life. A 'YesYes' vote means society recognises our role and the challenges we face every single day. It's about creating a future where young carers like me are supported to achieve our own goals in life alongside our caring roles.”

Highlighting the potential of the referendum to advance a broader equality agenda Shelly Gaynor, a disability activist, said: “I believe a ‘YesYes’ vote will modernise our society and make it more equal for all citizens.”

Sonya Lennon, advocate for workplace equity, said: “I cannot stand over an article that is a protection against a woman's 'neglect of their duties in the home' and gender stereotypes that negatively impact the fair progression of our State for everyone. Our constitution, in this respect, is not fit for purpose and does not reflect our ambitions as a society.

“It is also not right that in Ireland, our constitution defines family with such restrictions, restrictions that view my own family as lesser. Almost half of all children are born outside of marriage, and what constitutes a family in today's world is a rich and varied tapestry. As a society, it is our duty to acknowledge that. I am voting ‘YesYes’ for progress.”

As the referendum date of 8th March approaches, Family Carers Ireland and The National Women’s Council along with wider civic society groups are urging everyone to consider the critical role of care in the home and our communities and the positive impacts of a 'YesYes' vote for equality, inclusion and a more caring society. Find out more on