It is possible to have an ordinary referendum which is one that does not relate to amending Bunreacht na hEireann (the Irish Constitution). Since the foundation of the State however, no ordinary referendum has ever been held.
An ordinary referendum would take place if the Irish President received a joint petition from both houses of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament), that is, the Dáil and the Seanad. The petition would set out that a proposed Bill was of such national importance that the will of the people of Ireland should be found out before it became law.
The joint petition must be passed by the majority of the members of the Seanad and one-third of the members of the Dáil. When the President receives the petition, he/she must consult the Council of State.
If the President decides that the Bill contains a proposal of such national importance that the will of the people should be found out, he/she will refuse to sign the Bill until a referendum has been held.
The referendum must be held within 18 months of the President's decision not to sign the Bill. This referendum gives the people of Ireland a chance to decide whether the Bill should become part of Irish law.
The voting procedure at the ordinary referendum is the same as in a constitutional referendum, except that the proposal is deemed to have been vetoed by the people if:
- The majority of the votes cast are against the Bill and
- Those votes make up at least one-third of the presidential electors on the register of electors.