Convention on the Constitution
What was the Constitutional Convention?
The Convention on the Constitution, often called the Constitutional Convention, was established by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas (pdf) in 2012 to consider a number of possible changes to the Constitution and make recommendations. The resolution committed the Government to providing a response to each recommendation.
The Convention met over 18 months between 2012 and 2014. It discussed 10 issues in all. Several of its recommendations resulted in amendments to the Constitution.
Topics, recommendations and outcomes
The following table sets out the topics discussed by the Constitutional Convention, its recommendations and the outcomes to date. The Convention published its final report (pdf) in 2014.
Reducing the President’s term of office to five years and aligning it with the local and European elections
|No change to the term of office of the President.
|Reduce the minimum age for presidential candidates.
|On 22 May 2015, a referendum rejected the proposal to reduce the age of eligibility for election as President.
Give citizens a say in a nomination process for presidential candidates.
The matter is due to be referred to an Oireachtas committee.
Reducing the age at which people can vote in elections
|Reduce the voting age to 16.
The Government is considering reducing the voting age for local and European elections in time for the 2024 elections.
|Review of the Dáil electoral system
|Establish an Electoral Commission.
|The Electoral Commission was established on 9 February 2023.
Recommendations also included reform of the electoral register, a minimum of 5 seats per constituency, non-alphabetical order on ballot papers, extending polling hours and postal voting and measures to improve electoral turnout.
Non-parliamentary ministers in government.
TDs required to resign Dáil seats when appointed to ministerial office.
Citizen initiatives to be introduced, including the calling of referendums.
The Government approved a series of policy proposals aimed at modernising the electoral registration process.
The Government did not accept the proposal that no constituency should have fewer than 5 seats.
The Electoral Commission has been established and several of the remaining recommendations are expected to form part of its work.
|Right to vote Irish citizens living abroad to have the right to vote in presidential elections.
|Citizens living outside the State should have the right to vote in presidential elections.
|The Government has committed to holding a referendum on this issue.
|Provision for same-sex marriage
|Amend the Constitution to allow for same-sex marriage.
|A referendum on this proposal was passed on 22 May 2015 and the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Act 2015 was signed into law on 29 August 2015.
|Role of women
Amending Article 41.2 on the role of women in the home and encouraging greater participation of women in public life.
|Role of women
Make Article 41.2 (on the role of women) gender-neutral to include other carers both ‘in the home’ and ‘beyond the home’.
The State should provide ‘a reasonable level of support’ to carers.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality has carried out pre-legislative scrutiny (pdf) on this issue.
The Government has published The National Carers Strategy.
The Government has published the General Scheme of the Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2023.
|Increasing the participation of women in politics.
|Amend the Constitution to include an explicit provision on gender equality.
More government action to encourage greater participation of women in politics.
Amend the Constitution to include ‘gender-inclusive’ language.
|The Citizens' Assembly’s recommendations on Gender Equality (pdf) included:
• Introduce maternity leave for all elected representatives
• Extend gender quotes for party candidates to local, Seanad and European elections
• Make funding to public bodies contingent on reaching a 40% gender balance by 2025
|Removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.
|Remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution and replace with an offence of incitement to religious hatred.
|A referendum on this proposal was passed on 26 October 2018 and the Constitution has been amended.
|Recommendations include enhancing the office of the Ceann Comhairle and secret voting for this role; mentioning Dáil Committees in the Constitution; changing how committees work, including the Dáil Reform Committee; and more free votes on Dáil and committee business.
|In March 2016, the Ceann Comhairle was elected by secret ballot for the first time.
The sub-Committee on Dáil Reform produced its final report (pdf) on 24 May 2016 and work is ongoing on its recommendations.
A Committee on Standing Orders and Dáil Reform was established on 5 March 2020.
Economic, social and cultural rights
|Enhanced constitutional protection of economic, social and cultural rights.
Specific additional rights to be referred to in the Constitution (housing and essential healthcare, language and cultural rights and rights of people with disabilities)
A Private Member’s Bill on this issue was debated in the Oireachtas but did not proceed.
The bill was debated again on 27 January 2021.
How did the Constitutional Convention work?
The Constitutional Convention used the model of deliberative democracy (pdf), in which citizens participate directly in decision-making. Deliberative democracy involves:
- Random selection of ordinary citizens, who are provided with objective information
- Expert presentations for participants to listen to and question
- Facilitated small-group discussions about policy issues
- Recommendations fed into the political process
The Convention’s work was guided by five key principles:
- Equality of voice
Structures and procedures
The Convention had 100 participants (pdf). The Government appointed a chairman. Sixty-six citizens were randomly selected (pdf), to be as representative as possible of Irish society in terms of gender, age, social class and geographical location. The people chosen had to be on the Register of Electors and entitled to vote in a referendum.
The other 33 participants were members of the Dáil and Seanad and a representative of each political party in the Northern Ireland Assembly that wished to be represented.
The Convention’s work was supported by an expert advisory group of academics, political scientists and constitutional lawyers who submitted presentations on a range of topics. A wide range of public bodies and interest groups also made submissions to the Convention.
In its final report (pdf) in 2014, the Convention recommended that a similar convention be created to address additional issues.
In 2016, the Citizens’ Assembly was set up to consider further legal and policy issues facing Irish society. This was another exercise in deliberative democracy.
You can find information on the Convention and its work and recommendations at constitutionalconvention.ie. You can watch the archived videos of the Convention’s meetings.