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Message from the Editor: An embarrassing day for the Coalition that is not cost free

Political impact of referendums will be fleeting but it is a public rejection every Yes-voting politician could have done without

The family and care referendums of 2024 may in time occupy little more than a footnote in the history of a year that promises far more politically significant electoral contests. The rejection of both proposed amendments, on the definition of the family and the role of carers, has neither the shock value nor the political import of the No votes on the Nice and Lisbon Treaties in the 2000s. It is unlikely to galvanise activists in the way that the rejection of the 1986 divorce referendum did. More likely, yesterday’s results will sit in our memory somewhere closer to the unsuccessful attempt in 2011 to strengthen the powers of Oireachtas committees or the ill-fated move by a Fine Gael-Labour coalition in 2015 to reduce the voting age in presidential elections. In other words, their political impact will be fleeting.

And yet, as an editorial we published last night points out, an embarrassing day for the Government – and a miserable one too for those Opposition parties and NGOs that supported the proposals – is not cost-free. The result is unlikely to affect the elections to come, but it is nonetheless a public rejection every Yes-voting TD or Senator could have done without as election season approaches. Meanwhile, the Constitution retains the anachronistic clause on mothers’ “duties in the home” – the removal of which was the chief objective of the long campaign for reform – and will continue to define the family in terms that no longer accord with the social consensus. Many No campaigners said they could have signed up for new language on both issues. In these circumstances, it was some feat to come up with a losing formula.

Our comprehensive coverage of the referendums continues on, where Jennifer Bray looks at how the campaign was won and lost while Pat Leahy examines the political fallout. Hugh Linehan and our politics team delve deeper into these questions in a special episode of the Inside Politics podcast, and you can pore over the results from every constituency on our results page.

Elsewhere this weekend, we give in-depth coverage to the remarkable findings of an official report into the activities of the IRA man – and British agent – known as Stakeknife and widely understood to be the late Freddie Scappaticci. As Seanín Graham reports, the inquiry found that the British security services allowed serious crimes, including murder, to occur and to go unpunished in order to protect their agents inside paramilitary groups. There is a great deal we still don’t know about Scappaticci, his motivations and his activities, but this illuminating portrait by Gerry Moriarty fills in some of the gaps.

How did a gang of small-time criminals in 1980s Dublin go on to become a global crime cartel with wealth of more than €1 billion? Understanding the Kinahan organised crime group – its origins, its structures and its future prospects – has been a focus of ours for many years. This week, Crime and Security Editor Conor Lally travelled to Dubai and paid a visit to the luxury compound where police believe senior members of the gang have been holed up as the authorities in the US and Ireland step up their efforts to bring them to justice.

Our correspondents across the world were busy this week. Washington Correspondent Keith Duggan was in the House of Representatives chamber as US president Joe Biden gave a “blistering” and energetic State of the Union speech that belied the “Sleepy Joe” caricature; China Correspondent Denis Staunton reports from the villages of the Mosuo people of southwest China – one of the few surviving matrilineal societies; and Germany Correspondent Derek Scally tells us about the mixed reception that has greeted Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest – a formally daring Holocaust film that has won raves in the anglophone world, including a rare five-star endorsement from our own Donald Clarke. Also well worth reading are insightful dispatches from Sally Hayden in the Iraqi city of Mosul and Daniel McLaughlin in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Other highlights this weekend include Malachy Clerkin’s interview with All-Ireland winner Orlagh Lally, who talks about her mental health struggles and losing her friend Red Óg Murphy; Mark Paul’s interview with the millionaire ex-whizzkid trader Gary Stevenson; and Miriam Lord’s inimitable account of the week as seen from Leinster House.

You may have heard that England defeated Ireland at Twickenham yesterday, dashing Irish hopes of a second Grand Slam in a row. On today our team of rugby writers sift through the embers of that defeat; take a look at Gerry Thornley’s match report, Johnny Watterson’s player ratings; and John O’Sullivan’s analysis.

Finally, there is big Irish interest in this year’s Academy Awards, where Cillian Murphy is up for a Best Actor award at tonight’s ceremony in Los Angeles. Murphy had a wide-ranging conversation with Patrick Freyne this week, while Donald Clarke told the In the News podcast who he thought would – and should – win in each of the major categories. The ceremony starts at 11pm Irish time, and you can follow every moment on our live blog here at

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic


As always, there is much more on, including rundowns of all the latest movies in our film reviews, tips for the best restaurants in our food section and all the latest in sport. There are plenty more articles exclusively available for Irish Times subscribers here. In this week’s On the Money newsletter, Joanne Hunt looks at what happens if you use a mortgage payment break. Sign up here to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox every Friday.

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