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Government Sets Indicative Timetable For Referendums

The Government today, 26th September 2017, agreed an indicative timetable for a number of referendums on constitutional amendments and reforms to local government, arising from the work of the Citizens’ Assembly, the Convention on the Constitution, and the Programme for a Partnership Government:

  • · Referendum on the Eighth amendment - May or June 2018 
  • · Referendums on Blasphemy (Article 40.6.1) and “Woman's life within the home” (Article 41.2.1) – October 2018
  • · Plebiscite on directly elected executive mayors - October 2018
  • · Referendums on Divorce, Extending the Franchise at Presidential Elections to Irish Citizens Resident outside the State, and Reducing the voting age to 16, – June 2019

Each referendum will be subject to passage of Bills by the Houses of the Oireachtas and formal confirmation of the polling date.

The Taoiseach said:

Any amendment to our Constitution requires careful consideration by the people. They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate. Setting a timetable for the referendums to be held over the next two years will allow all involved in campaigning on the issues to plan ahead and to facilitate that public debate.

The Citizens' Assembly report on the on the Eighth amendment of the Constitution is currently being considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee which is expected to report before the end of the year. A Bill to amend the Constitution will be prepared in light of the Committee’s report, and subject to its passage by the Houses of the Oireachtas, a referendum will be held in May or June of 2018.

The Government is committed to holding constitutional referendums on Article 41.2.1, regarding a woman’s life within the home, and Article 40.6.1, on the offence of blasphemy – both arising from recommendations made by the Convention on the Constitution and included in the Programme for Government.

In March 2017 the Government approved in principle the holding of a referendum to give citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections also on foot of a recommendation from the Convention on the Constitution. The Convention also recommended a referendum on reducing the voting age to 16.

Reforms to local government including the direct election of city Mayors arise from the Programme for Government.

The Government decided on 4 April 2017 to support a Private Members’ Bill from Deputy Josepha Madigan to reduce the length of the period or periods for which a couple must live apart before they can obtain a divorce.

The Government has deferred making a decision on the timing of a referendum on Ireland’s participation in the Unified Patent Court.

The Government is also still considering the holding of a referendum on keeping Irish Water in public ownership.

The referendums to be held in October 2018 could be held on the same date as a presidential election if one is held.

It is proposed that the June 2019 referendums would be held on the same day as the local and European elections.

The Taoiseach will meet the leaders of the main parties to discuss the plans for referendums.