The Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland provided constitutional recognition of local government and required that local government elections occur at least once in every five years. It was effected by the Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 2001, which was approved by referendum on 11 June 1999 and signed into law on 23 June of the same year.
1. The State recognises the role of local government in providing a forum for the democratic representation of local communities, in exercising and performing at local level powers and functions conferred by law and in promoting by its initiatives the interests of such communities.
2. There shall be such directly elected local authorities as may be determined by law and their powers and functions shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, be so determined and shall be exercised and performed in accordance with law.
3. Elections for members of such local authorities shall be held in accordance with law not later than the end of the fifth year after the year in which they were last held.
4. Every citizen who has the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann and such other persons as may be determined by law shall have the right to vote at an election for members of such of the local authorities referred to in section 2 of this Article as shall be determined by law.
5. Casual vacancies in the membership of local authorities referred to in section 2 of this Article shall be filled in accordance with law.
In 1999 local government had been a long-standing feature of Irish political life. However it was not granted explicit recognition in the constitution. Furthermore there was discomfort that, without a constitutionally specified term limit, local elections sometimes occurred less frequently that once in every five years. The Twentieth Amendment was introduced by the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats coalition government of Bertie Ahern and was supported by Fine Gael and the Labour Party (the two major opposition parties). It was submitted to a referendum on the same day as the 1999 European Parliament elections. The voting went 1,024,850 (77.8%) in favour and 291,965 (22.2%) against. While the change shown above is that made to the English-language version of the constitution, constitutionally it is the Irish text that takes precedence.