Lack of maternity leave for politicians 'doesn't reflect well on modern democracy,' Taoiseach says

Lack of maternity leave for politicians 'doesn't reflect well on modern democracy,' Taoiseach says

A referendum may be required to allow female politicians to take maternity leave, the Taoiseach has said. Pic: Moya Nolan

A referendum may be required to allow female politicians to take maternity leave, the Taoiseach has said.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has recently announced she is expecting her first child, but there is currently no legal provision to allow her to take maternity leave.

Currently, politicians must provide a sick note if they wish to take time off to spend time with their newborn children.

Micheál Martin said it did not reflect well on a modern democracy that maternity leave could not be provided for female politicians.

 "It may very well require a referendum and perhaps should.

"There are issues there of a constitutional nature in terms of a member of the house. For example, as a TD or senator and as a minister.

"And I think it doesn't reflect well on a modern democracy that we cannot facilitate a woman going on maternity leave in ministerial office.

"I think that's something we should rectify. The precise mechanisms to rectify that we are still examining."

Mr Martin said the Government has not yet decided if an interim minister will be appointed to the justice portfolio while Ms McEntee is on leave.

He said: "We will have to do some interim measures, I'm not talking just in the context of Helen McEntee, because Helen herself would want us to do it generally as a basic, necessary modern reform of our parliamentary democracy and also to make life, the quality of life, better for all concerned, including paternity leaves as well.

"So it's not good enough and we need to change it. My view is that having examined all the details, we should change it at different levels or stages.

"I mean we have to do whatever is required in Helen's context within the framework of the constitution and so on."

The Taoiseach said discussions with the Attorney General are ongoing as to whether a referendum will be required.

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