Irish government 'walloped' by referendum defeats

FILE PHOTO: Vote on referendum on changes to the Irish constitution called the Family Amendment and the Care Amendment, in Ireland

DUBLIN (Reuters) -Irish voters have rejected proposals to replace constitutional references to the makeup of a family and a mother's "duties in the home" in a significant defeat for the government.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had pitched the vote, held on Friday to coincide with International Women's Day and counted on Saturday, as a chance to delete some "very old-fashioned, very sexist language about women".

A proposal to expand the definition of family from a relationship founded on marriage to include other durable relationships was rejected by 67.7% to 32.3%.

A second referendum on a proposal to replace language surrounding a woman's duties in the home with a clause recognising the role of family members in the provision of care was rejected by 73.9% to 26.1%.

Campaigners argued the proposal would enshrine care as a private responsibility, and not a state one.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin on Saturday, Varadkar said voters had given his government "two wallops".

"It was our responsibility to convince a majority of people to vote yes, and we clearly failed to do so."

(Reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by David Holmes, Nick Macfie and Chizu Nomiyama)