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.||No change.|
|*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.
Reducing the age at which people can vote in elections
|*Reduce the voting age to 16||The Government committed
to holding a referendum on this issue.
A Private Member’s Bill on this issue is currently before the Oireachtas.
|Review of the Dáil electoral system||Establish an Electoral Commission.||A public consultation on establishment of an Electoral Commission was launched in December 2018.|
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.
A public consultation on reform of the electoral register was launched in December 2018.
The Government did not accept the proposal that no constituency should have fewer than 5 seats.
If an Electoral Commission is set up, 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.||A referendum on this issue is due to be held in 2019.|
|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.
*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.
|Increasing the participation of women in politics.||*Amend
the Constitution to include an explicit provision on gender
More government action to encourage greater participation of women in politics.
*Amend the Constitution to include ‘gender-inclusive’ language.
|Work on these issues is ongoing.|
|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.|
|Dáil reform||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 Government has committed to progressing these recommendations.
The sub-Committee on Dáil Reform produced its final report (pdf) on 24 May 2016 and work is ongoing on its recommendations.
Economic, social and cultural rights
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.
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.
You can also read our document about the Citizens’ Assembly which followed the Convention on the Constitution.