Only two proposals for Constitution referendum

People to vote on same-sex marriage and age of eligibility for presidential candidates

Colm O Gorman, Mary Murphy, Tom Arnold  and Michael Mc Dowell at the Convention on the Constitution in February 2014. Photogaph: Cyril Byrne

Colm O Gorman, Mary Murphy, Tom Arnold and Michael Mc Dowell at the Convention on the Constitution in February 2014. Photogaph: Cyril Byrne

 

Only two of 18 recommendations for constitutional change made by the Convention on the Constitution are to be put to referendum.

The Government decided this month there would be no referendums held during its terms of office on removing blasphemy from the Constitution or on reducing the voting age from 18 to 16.

Only two of the proposals for change to emerge out of the convention will now be put to the popular vote: the referendums on same-sex marriage and on reducing the age of eligibility for presidential candidates.

Both will be held at the end of May, along with a byelection in Carlow-Kilkenny (to fill the seat vacated by EU Commissioner Phil Hogan).

The convention was a key aim in the Programme for Government announced in March 2011. Originally the Coalition spoke of a ‘Constitution Day’ in which a number of referendums would be held, marking the biggest changes to Bunreacht na hÉireann since it was passed by public plebiscite in 1937.

However, the original target to complete the work within a year was not met. The Coalition set up the body to look at possible amendments to the Constitution under 10 headings.

It was comprised of 66 citizens selected by a polling and research company, as well as 33 politicians, and met over a period of two years.

The convention was chaired by the former head of Concern Tom Arnold and had a secretariat as well as expert advice from senior political scientists attached to leading universities.

Under its terms of reference the Government was obliged to respond to each of the 10 reports of the convention within four months. While it adhered to the deadline for the earlier topics, the Department of the Taoiseach has yet to respond to the last three topics – reports on which were submitted between 10 months and 16 months ago.

Range of issues

In all, there were 38 recommendations made on a wide range of issues. The Government commitment to put the future of Seanad Éireann to referendum was excluded from the terms of reference.

 

Of the recommendations, it appeared that 18 would require referendums if adopted. However, as of now, it is certain that referendums will be held on only two.

Convention recommendations that would require a referendum

1. Reducing the age of candidacy for presidential candidates

2. Giving citizens a say in the nomination process for presidential candidates

3. Reducing the voting age to 16

4. Altering the role of women in the home

5. Making explicit provision on gender equality

6. Amending the Constitution to include ‘gender-inclusive’ language

7. Making provisions for same-sex marriage 8. Strengthening economic and social rights

9. Enumerating rights such as housing social security

10. Enhancing the status and office of Ceann Comhairle

11. Electing the Ceann Comhairle by secret ballot

12. Including references to Dáil committees in the Constitution

13. Amending article 17.2 (re government prior approval for expenditure proposals)

14. Including non-parliamentary ministers in government

15. Requiring members of the Dáil to resign their seats on being appointed to ministerial office

16. Introduction of citizen initiatives

17. Giving citizens abroad and in Northern Ireland the right to vote in presidential elections

18. Removal of the offence of blasphemy