The Constitution today

Article 45 4. 2 The State shall endeavour to ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children shall not be abused and that citizens shall not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their sex, age or strength. (Lewis 1993; 74, 75) Although these articles were protested against and opposed, DeValera refused to remove them. (Smyth 1993; 46) They remain in the Constitution today.

Under this new Catholic-dominated society – the same church that had condemned the suffragettes for being "incompatible with the Catholic ideal of the unity of domestic life" (ibid; 46) – women were marginalized and this was underpinned and supported by law and constitution. Women were forbidden to work in the civil service, local authority and in schools after marriage. This eliminated their promotion prospects and even damaged their hopes of ever being given a job, as they would be obstructing the way a man who would not have to quit after marriage. (MacCurtain and i??

Corri?? in 1978; 76) Although this ban did exist in other countries, it lasted much longer in Ireland. In the UK, it was lifted in 1946, in Australia, it was lifted in 1966. (Sawer 1996) In Ireland it was in existence until the 1970s. (MacCurtain and i?? Corri?? in 1978; 79) Catholic law controlled state law. Divorce, abortion and contraception were also constitutionally forbidden. The Criminal Law Amendment in 1935 stated that: It shall not be lawful for any person to sell, or expose, offer, advertise or keep for sale, or to import or to attempt to import into Saorsti??

t Eireann for sale, any contraceptive. (Lewis 1993; 75) The Censorship of Publications Acts in 1929 and 1946 reinforced this Act, providing for a "mandatory ban on books or periodicals advocating the unnatural prevention of conception. " (MacCurtain and i?? Corri?? in 1978; 62) These laws were protested against as a violation of a woman's right to control her fertility, and the illegal import of contraception was common. (Tovey and Share 2000; 226) Although France, Spain and Italy had comparable laws, theirs were lifted much earlier.

It was only in 1994 that all restrictions on contraception were lifted in Ireland. In accordance with Catholic teaching, abortion is still prohibited in Ireland. However, various amendments have made information on abortion in other countries permissible and give women the right to travel for an abortion. (Tovey and Share 2000; 226) Divorce was illegal in Ireland until 1995. Before then, it was constitutionally banned. A couple could legally separate, but not remarry.

However, Irish citizens could obtain a divorce if the person filing it was resident in a state which did allow divorce. (Council for the Status of Women 1981; 82) This law was biased unfairly against women. In Irish law, a woman automatically took the domicile of her husband – i. e. wherever he was in residence, legally she was too, even if they were in different countries. (ibid; 72) Therefore, it was much easier for a man to obtain a divorce than a woman. It was only when Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973 that the aforementioned reforms on behalf of women began.

(Lewis 1993; 72) It was a "modernizing influence" according to Tovey and Share (2000; 409) European Community membership provided the occasion for women to begin to claim rights as part of a wider community and to begin to challenge their thinking behind many of the normative assumptions which had dominated Irish social policy concerning family, motherhood and household. (Lewis 1993; 72) Ireland did, however, manage to resist the EU's "modernizing influence" when it came to divorce until quite recently, and when it comes to abortion to this day.

In some ways, Ireland remains a Catholic country, and although women have achieved substantial equality, the feminist movement still have issues to contend with. However, now, due to the integration of Ireland into Europe, the separation of church and state, and the decrease in the importance of radical nationalism, the voice of the feminists is being heard. Ireland has had two female Presidents, some very prominent female politicians and female rights are being upheld more and more.

(Tovey and Share 2000; 188) Only recently was the first conviction of a man for a rape within a marriage. (Irish Examiner, Saturday, October 26, 2002) Ireland still has some way to go to catch up with other countries, particularly the Northern welfare states of Norway and Sweden. Nonetheless, a precedent has now been set and it has become easier and more acceptable to fight for equality. As the suffragette Louie Bennett said in 1955: Despite the progress we have made, women must still unfortunately fight to hold their corner.

They must organise with women all over the world. That is their weapon. That is their strength. (Cullen Owens 2001; 9) This is still the case in 2003. Most women nowadays do not even realise the influence the women's movements made on their lives, both at the turn of the century and the contemporary movement from the 1960s on. However, it has been a great instrument of change and has shaped the lives of women in Ireland to the way they are today, to a greater degree of freedom and equality than their predecessors would have deemed possible.