Friday 22 June 2018

Explained: Why Irish voters may be facing up to eight referendums

Irish voters are facing a raft of referendums - we look at why there is so much constitutional change on the table.

Irish voters may be visiting the polling booth regularly over the next two years
Irish voters may be visiting the polling booth regularly over the next two years

Sean Nolan

Over the next two years Irish voters may be faced with the prospect of voting in up to eight referendums.

Here's why and what the issues will be.

What is on the agenda?

According to reports today, Irish voters may be asked to vote on eight different referendums by the summer of 2019.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is set to brief the Cabinet today on the matter, with the long-debated referendum on the Eighth Amendment on the list.

When might that be?

According to RTE, a referendum commission could be set up early next year, meaning a vote on the Eighth Amendment in May or June 2018.

What else will the electorate be asked to decide on?

With a possible Presidential Election in October 2018, three more referendums may also be polled on the same day.

One may be on making a change to Ireland's blasphemy laws, which is tied into the Constitution in Article 40.6.1.i.

There have been calls to make changes to this section of the Defamation Act for almost a decade.

Pressure mounted last year in the wake of the controversy over comments made by Stephen Fry on RTE and a subsequent possible criminal charge being brought against the comedian.

The case was subsequently dropped.

The similarly controversial Article 41.2.1 referencing the women’s place in the home may also be up for removal.

It famously states: "In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved."

Proposals to allow directly elected mayors could also be held on the same date.

Then, on the same day as the local and European elections in 2019, four more matters may be put to the public.

They would include a vote on reducing the waiting time for a divorce, allowing voting rights in presidential elections to Irish citizens abroad, bringing the voting age down from 18 to 16.

The final matter, on patent law, may or may not take place in 2019.

Anything else on the horizon?

Some have suggested a referendum to put the position of the Ceann Comhairle into the Constitution could also be put to the people, and another vote on Committee powers could also be held (we rejected a vote on this in 2011 by a margin of 53-47 per cent).

If the Cabinet decide to push ahead with these two proposals then the number of referendums could be as high as ten in the coming years.

Online Editors

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