Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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For the earlier rejected fourth amendment, see Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1968 (Ireland).

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland lowered the voting age for all national elections and referendums in the state from twenty-one to eighteen years of age. It was effected by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1972 which was approved by referendum on 7 December 1972 and signed into law on 5 January 1973.

Changes to the text[edit]

  • Deletion from Article 16.1.2 (removed text in bold):
Every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of twenty-one years who is not disqualified by law and complies with the provisions of the law relating to the election of members of Dáil Éireann, shall have the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann.
  • Addition to Article 16.1.2 (added text in bold):
Every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of eighteen years who is not disqualified by law and complies with the provisions of the law relating to the election of members of Dáil Éireann, shall have the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann.

Overview[edit]

The Fourth Amendment altered Article 16 which deals with elections to Dáil Éireann (the lower house of parliament). However other provisions of the constitution state that anyone entitled to vote in Dáil elections is also entitled to participate in the election of the President and in referendums, so the amendment affected these votes as well. (The Ninth Amendment later diverged the two franchises.) The amendment did not, nonetheless, affect the minimum age at which one could be elected to the Dáil, and this remained at twenty-one. Although the changes shown above are those made to the English-language version of the constitution, constitutionally it is the Irish text that has precedence.

The amendment was introduced by the Fianna Fáil government of Jack Lynch but was supported by every major political party. It was submitted to a referendum on the same day as the Fifth Amendment, which removed from the constitution reference to the "special position" of the Catholic Church and recognition of certain other named denominations. The Fourth Amendment was approved by 724,836 (84.6%) in favour and 131,514 (15.4%) against.

Result[edit]

Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[1]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum passed Yes 724,836 84.64
No 131,514 15.36
Valid votes 856,350 94.79
Invalid or blank votes 47,089 5.21
Total votes 903,439 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 1,783,604 50.65

Implementation[edit]

The 19th Dáil was dissolved on 5 February 1973 and a general election was held on 28 February. However, the electoral register was updated only every 15 April, so those under 21 were unable to vote despite the amendment. A 20-year-old student, represented by Seán MacBride, asked the High Court to postpone the election to vindicate his right to vote.[2] He lost his case, although he was awarded his costs due to its "public importance".[2]

Although the names of under-21s had already been added to the provisional register, it was the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1973 passed on 9 April which reduced the age limits in statute law in line with the amended constitution.[3][4] The first under-21s to vote were a few graduates in the National University of Ireland and University of Dublin elections to the 13th Seanad.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Referendum Results". Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Ferriter, Diarmaid (1 November 2012). Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s. Profile Books. pp. 94–95. ISBN 9781847658562. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  3. ^ O'Leary, Michael (30 March 1973). "Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1973: Second Stage.". Seanad Éireann debates. pp. Vol.74. No.6 p.11 cc.513–4. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1973". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 

External links[edit]