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Referendums Contents


Summary of Referendums 1937-2012

The Referendum Commission

Website of the Referendum Returning Officer for Referendums in Ireland: referendum.ie


Referendums on 4 October 2013

Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013

Thirty-third Amendment of the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013

Counting on Saturday 5 October 2013 - Results will be updated as they become available


Click here for Children's Rights results [ACCEPTED]


Referendums in Ireland

The draft Constitution was approved by the people at a plebiscite held on 1st July 1937. The constitution provides for two kinds of referendum:

  • A referendum on a proposal to amend the Constitution (referred to in law as a "constitutional referendum"), and
  • A referendum on a proposal other than a proposal to amend the Constitution (referred to in law as an "ordinary referendum").

An ordinary referendum may take place when a proposal contained in a Bill is determined to be of such national importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained. No ordinary referendum has taken place up to the present.

A constitutional referendum relates to proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. The first two amendments to the Constitution took place during the transitional period within which the Constitution could be amended by ordinary law without a referendum in accordance with Article 51. These amendments were effected by the First Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1939 and the Second Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1941 respectively.

Numbering of Constitutional Amendments

The recent Oireachtas Inquiries Referendum was called the 30th Amendment but this is incorrect as it would have been the 24th Amendment to the Constitution if passed. The error first occurred in 1992 when one of the three amendments up for ratification was defeated. Up to this if an amendment was defeated then that number was carried forward to the next referendum as happened to the third amendment which failed in 1959 and 1968 and was eventually passed at the third attempt in 1971. Thus the Divorce referendum in 1995 should have been the 14th not the 15th. This one and the next seven were passed but number 22 was not used and so going into the first Nice Treaty referendum it should have been the 22nd amendment instead of 24th. As this one failed the next one on Abortion should still have been the 22nd instead of 25th and as it was defeated the next one on the second Nice Treaty should have been 22nd not 26th. Thus the Citizenship referendum which was passed in 2004 was the 23rd amendment not 27th. The first Lisbon Treaty referendum failed and so the second one which was passed became the 24th amendment, making the Judges Pay referendum the 25th not the 29th.


Results and Details of Referendums

The Referendums marked with an asterisk below do not have detailed voting figures available yet

10 November 2012
31st Amendment: Children [ACCEPTED]
31 May 2012
30th Amendment: Fiscal Treaty [ACCEPTED]
27 October 2011
29th Amendment: Judges' Remuneration [ACCEPTED]
30th Amendment: Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries [REJECTED]
2 October 2009
28th Amendment: Treaty of Lisbon II [ACCEPTED]
28th Constitutional Amendment (49a of 2009 )
On 8 July 2009 the Taoiseach confirmed the second referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon would be held on 2 October 2009. Ireland is the only country in the EU which by law requires ratification of EU treaties by referendum.
A Referendum Commission was established on 7 July 2009 by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD. The Commission was chaired by Mr Justice Frank Clarke. A dedicated website was set up by the Referendum Commission for information relating to this referendum: www.lisbontreaty2009.ie.
12 June 2008
Referendum on EU Lisbon Treaty [REJECTED]
28th Constitutional Amendment (14 of 2008 - 6 March 2008)
On 11 March 2008 the Taoiseach announced the vote on the revised Treaty would be held in the second week of June 2008. Ireland is the only country in the EU which by law requires ratification of EU treaties by referendum. On 12 May 2008, the date for this referendum was confirmed as Thursday 12 June 2008.
A Referendum Commission was established on 6 March 2008 by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD. The Commission was chaired by High Court judge, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who was nominated to the position by the Chief Justice, John Murray. A dedicated website was set up by the Referendum Commission for information relating to this referendum: www.lisbontreaty2008.ie
2007
Referendum on Child Protection [PROPOSED]
In February 2007 the Government published the proposed wording of the 28th Constitutional Amendment to replace Article 42 of the Constitution, which affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children. No date has been agreed for the referendum, but it will now be held on a later date than the Referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty, which is now the proposed 28th Constitutional Amendment.
2005
 
Referendum on EU Constitution [PROPOSED]
28th Amendment of the Constitution (15 of 2005 - 26 May 2005)
On 26 May 2005 the Government published a bill for a referendum on the ratification of the proposed EU constitution. The referendum was expected some time in 2006, but was postponed following the 'no' votes in France and the Netherlands. It was subsequently re-introduced on 6 March 2008 (see Referendum on EU Lisbon Treaty).
11 June 2004
27th: Referendum on Citizenship [ACCEPTED]
19 October 2002
26th: Nice Treaty II [ACCEPTED]
6 March 2002
25th: Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy [REJECTED]
7 June 2001
21st: Abolition of the Death Penalty [ACCEPTED]
23rd: International Criminal Court [ACCEPTED]
24th: Nice Treaty I [REJECTED]

There is no Twenty-second Amendment of the Constitution. The Twenty-second Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001 [relating to the removal of a judge from office and providing for a body to be established by law to investigate or cause to be investigated conduct constituting misbehaviour by a judge or affected by incapacity of a judge] was not passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
11 June 1999
20th: Recognition for Local Government [ACCEPTED]
22 May 1998
19th: Northern Ireland [ACCEPTED]
18th: Treaty of Amsterdam [ACCEPTED]
30 June 1997
17th: Cabinet Confidentiality [ACCEPTED]
28 November 1996
16th: Bail [ACCEPTED]
24 November 1995
15th: Dissolution of Marriage [ACCEPTED]
25 November 1992
12th: Right to Life [REJECTED]
13th: Travel [ACCEPTED]
14th: Information [ACCEPTED]
18 June 1992
*11th: European Union [ACCEPTED]
26 May 1987
*10th: Ratification of the Single European Act [ACCEPTED]
26 June 1986
*10th: Dissolution of Marriage [REJECTED]
14 June 1984
*9th: Extension of Voting Right at Dail elections [ACCEPTED]
7 September 1983
*8th: Right to Life of the Unborn [ACCEPTED]
5 July 1979
*6th: Adoption [ACCEPTED]
*7th: University Representation in Seanad [ACCEPTED]
7 December 1973
*4th: Voting Age [ACCEPTED]
*5th: Recognition of Specified Religions [ACCEPTED]
10 May 1973
*3rd: Accession to the European Communities [ACCEPTED]
16 October 1968
*3rd: Formation of Dail Constituencies [REJECTED]
*4th: Change in Voting System [REJECTED]
17 June 1959
*3rd: Change in Voting System [REJECTED]
30 May 1942
§2nd: General Amendments [ACCEPTED]
An omnibus proposal, covering a range of disparate Articles, aimed at tidying up the Constitution in the light of experience since its enactment.
2 September 1939
§1st: State of Emergency [ACCEPTED]
Extended to conflicts in which the State is not a participant the provision for a state of emergency to secure the public safety and preservation of the State in time of war or armed rebellion.
1 July 1937
*Plebiscite on the Draft Constitution [ACCEPTED]

§The first two amendments to the Constitution took place during the transitional period within which the Constitution could be amended by ordinary law without a referendum in accordance with Article 51.


Some facts and figures

Referendums have taken place on a total of 32 proposals to amend the Constitution. 23 have been approved and 9 have been rejected. The largest majority was for the Adoption Referendum in 1979 when a huge 99% of the voters were in favour. The lowest majority in favour was in the Divorce Referendum in 1995 with 50.28% Yes, followed by Cabinet Confidentiality with only 52.65% in favour. The 1992 Right to Life Referendum was defeated by the largest majority (65.4% against). The largest turnout for a Referendum was in 1972 (70.9%) but this was less than turned out for the Plebiscite on the Draft Constitution in 1937 (75.8%). This Plebiscite also had the largest number of spoilt votes (10%). The 7.65% spoilt votes in the Local Government referendum in 1999 was the highest since 1937. The least turnout was for the Seanad Referendum in 1978 when only 28.6% of the electorate voted. The Nice and Lisbon Treaty Referenda were the only ones to date to be voted on twice as Nice was rejected in 2001 by 54% to 46% but was passed in 2002 by 63% to 37% with Lisbon rejected in 2008 by 53% to 47% and passed in 2009 by 67% to 33%. The electorate passed the three million mark for the first time in 2004 and was up in the latest referendums (October 2011) by 1.5 million from the first Referendum in 1959.


The Constitution of Ireland

There is a website dedicated to the Constitution of Ireland which contains the text of the Constitution and other information. See www.constitution.ie/ [Web Page, Department of the Taoiseach]

 
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