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Summary of Referendums 1937-2018
The Referendum Commission
Referendum on 24 May 2019
Thirty-eight Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016
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:
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
An error in the numbering of constitutional amendments occurred in 1992 when one of the three amendments up for ratification was defeated. Up until then 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 (both times relating to a change in the voting system) and was eventually passed at the third attempt in 1973 (concerning accession to the EEC). Thus the Divorce referendum in 1995 should have been the 14th not the 15th amendment. 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 (although both these referendums were described as the 28th 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
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).
§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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