Third Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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For other laws or bills of this name, see Third Amendment.

The Third Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland permitted the state to join the European Communities and provided that European law would take precedence over the constitution. It was effected by the Third Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1972 which was approved by referendum on 10 May 1972 and signed into law on 8 June of the same year.

Changes to the text[edit]

  • Insertion of new Article 29.4.3:
The State may become a member of the European Coal and Steel Community (established by Treaty signed at Paris on the 18th day of April, 1951), the European Economic Community (established by Treaty signed at Rome on the 25th day of March, 1957) and the European Atomic Energy Community (established by Treaty signed at Rome on the 25th day of March, 1957). No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State necessitated by the obligations of membership of the Communities or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the Communities, or institutions thereof, from having the force of law in the State.

Overview[edit]

Membership of the European Communities granted powers to European institutions which the 1937 constitution had vested exclusively in the Oireachtas (parliament) and the Government. It was also possible that many provisions of the constitution might be found to be incompatible with European law. For these reasons the Third Amendment introduced a provision expressly permitting the state to join the Communities and stating in broad terms that European law has supremacy over the constitution. Although the amendment shown above is that made to the English-language version of the constitution, constitutionally it is the Irish text that has precedence.

The Third Amendment was the first to be successfully approved by Irish voters in a referendum. It was introduced by the Fianna Fáil government of Jack Lynch but also supported by Fine Gael, the main opposition party, and by employers' and farmers' interest groups. However it was opposed by the Labour Party and Official Sinn Féin and the trade unions. The voting went 1,041,890 (83.1%) in favour and 211,891 (16.9%) against.

As Ireland had no nuclear power programme, nor any important coal and steel industries, membership of the Communities primarily concerned the European Economic Community.

Result[edit]

Third Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[1]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum passed Yes 1,041,890 83.09
No 211,891 16.91
Valid votes 1,253,781 99.17
Invalid or blank votes 10,497 0.83
Total votes 1,264,278 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 1,783,604 70.88

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