Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution
To permit the state to be bound by the British–Irish Agreement
LocationRepublic of Ireland Ireland
Date22 May 1998 (1998-05-22)
Results
Votes %
Yes 1,442,583 94.39%
No 85,748 5.61%
Valid votes 1,528,331 98.90%
Invalid or blank votes 17,064 1.10%
Total votes 1,545,395 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 2,747,088 56.26%

The Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution is an amendment of the Constitution of Ireland which permitted the state to be bound by the British–Irish Agreement (the bilateral portion of the Good Friday Agreement) and enabled the establishment of shared political institutions between Ireland and Northern Ireland. It also provided a mechanism for a further amendment to the Constitution upon a declaration by the government on the implementation of the Agreement, most notably by changing Articles 2 and 3 from an irredentist claim on the whole island of Ireland to an aspiration towards creating a united Ireland by peaceful means, "with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island".

The amendment was effected by the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1998 (previously bill no. 24 of 1998) which was approved by referendum on 22 May 1998 and signed into law on 3 June of the same year. The referendum was held on the same day as a Northern Ireland referendum on the Good Friday Agreement and a second referendum in the Republic of Ireland to ratify of the Amsterdam Treaty. The Government declaration envisaged by the Nineteenth Amendment was made on 2 December 1999, bringing the changes to Articles 2 and 3 and certain other parts of the constitution into effect.[1]

Background[edit]

The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a culmination of the Northern Ireland peace process. The agreement acknowledged nationalism and unionism as "equally legitimate, political aspirations".[2] It comprised two agreements: the Multi-Party Agreement, between the parties of Northern Ireland; and the British-Irish Agreement, between the government of Ireland and the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Constitution need to be amended to allow the Irish state to be bound by its provisions.

The government of Ireland also agreed to amend Articles 2 and 3; however, these changes would only take effect if the government were satisfied that it could make a declaration that the Agreement had taken effect. These changes would remove the claim of the state to the whole island of Ireland, while also providing a mechanism for a poll on a united Ireland. The government of the United Kingdom agreed changes to legislation, which were to be provided in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, for a border poll on the status of Northern Ireland.

Changes to the text[edit]

Initial changes after referendum (1998)[edit]

The Nineteenth Amendment added the text below as Article 29.7 to the constitution. Subsection 3º provides the detail of the amendments to be made to the text and are detailed further below. The text of subsections 3º, 4º and 5º, shown here in italics, are omitted from the published text of the Constitution.

1º The State may consent to be bound by the British-Irish Agreement done at Belfast on the 10th day of April, 1998, hereinafter called the Agreement.

2º Any institution established by or under the Agreement may exercise the powers and functions thereby conferred on it in respect of all or any part of the island of Ireland notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution conferring a like power or function on any person or any organ of State appointed under or created or established by or under this Constitution. Any power or function conferred on such an institution in relation to the settlement or resolution of disputes or controversies may be in addition to or in substitution for any like power or function conferred by this Constitution on any such person or organ of State as aforesaid.

3º If the Government declare that the State has become obliged, pursuant to the Agreement, to give effect to the amendment of this Constitution referred to therein, then, notwithstanding Article 46 hereof, this Constitution shall be amended as follows:

[See further below for these changes]

4º If a declaration under this section is made, this subsection and subsection 3, other than the amendment of this Constitution effected thereby, and subsection 5, of this section shall be omitted from every official text of this Constitution published thereafter, but notwithstanding such omission this section shall continue to have the force of law.

5º If such a declaration is not made within twelve months of this section being added to this Constitution or such longer period as may be provided for by law, this section shall cease to have effect and shall be omitted from every official text of this Constitution published thereafter.

Subsequent changes effected upon Government declaration (1999)[edit]

Upon the declaration of the government on 2 December 1999, and under the terms of 29.7.3º, the following changes were made to the text:

Deletion of the entirety of Articles 2 and 3:

Article 2

The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas.

Article 3

Pending the re-integration of the national territory, and without prejudice to the right of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of that territory, the laws enacted by that Parliament shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws of Saorstát Éireann and the like extra-territorial effect.

and substitution of the Articles with the following:

Article 2

It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.

Article 3

  1. It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island. Until then, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution.
  2. Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.

Insertion of the following as Article 29.8 (see extraterritorial jurisdiction in Irish law):

The State may exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction in accordance with the generally recognised principles of international law.

Bill[edit]

A lay litigant named Denis Riordan launched a High Court challenge to the bill the week before the referendum. He claimed the bill was invalid because it purported to allow a mechanism to amend the Constitution by government declaration rather than by referendum. The court rejected the challenge on the grounds that the initial amendment would be by referendum and that by separation of powers the courts could not interfere in the legislative process.[3]

Referendum result[edit]

Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[4]
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 1,442,583 94.39
No 85,748 5.61
Valid votes 1,528,331 98.90
Invalid or blank votes 17,064 1.10
Total votes 1,545,395 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 2,747,088 56.26
Results by constituency[4]
Constituency Electorate
Turnout
(%)
Votes Proportion of votes
Yes No Yes No
Carlow–Kilkenny 86,584 56.2% 45,362 2,531 94.8% 5.2%
Cavan–Monaghan 83,141 60.8% 46,612 3,194 93.6% 6.4%
Clare 71,060 51.6% 34,089 2,023 94.4% 5.6%
Cork East 63,881 55.3% 33,582 1,275 96.4% 3.6%
Cork North-Central 72,802 53.4% 35,703 2,773 92.8% 7.2%
Cork North-West 47,402 59.1% 25,878 1,689 93.9% 6.1%
Cork South-Central 85,752 58.2% 46,596 3,001 94.0% 6.0%
Cork South-West 47,988 57.5% 25,591 1,604 94.2% 5.8%
Donegal North-East 52,188 56.0% 26,923 2,012 93.1% 6.9%
Donegal South-West 51,097 54.7% 25,919 1,693 93.9% 6.1%
Dublin Central 63,483 52.9% 31,232 1,998 94.0% 6.0%
Dublin North 65,312 60.7% 37,756 1,689 95.8% 4.2%
Dublin North-Central 65,737 65.1% 40,196 2,322 94.6% 5.4%
Dublin North-East 59,398 61.4% 34,347 1,985 94.6% 5.4%
Dublin North-West 59,332 59.3% 32,731 2,171 93.8% 6.2%
Dublin South 90,536 63.4% 54,727 2,431 95.8% 4.2%
Dublin South-Central 66,994 59.4% 36,945 2,515 93.7% 6.3%
Dublin South-East 62,663 59.7% 35,375 1,760 95.3% 4.7%
Dublin South-West 76,748 52.3% 37,475 2,382 94.1% 5.9%
Dublin West 68,773 56.2% 36,378 2,043 94.7% 5.3%
Dún Laoghaire 86,311 62.2% 51,161 2,244 95.8% 4.2%
Galway East 61,703 52.8% 30,577 1,465 95.5% 4.5%
Galway West 79,180 48.9% 36,302 2,014 94.8% 5.2%
Kerry North 51,641 50.8% 24,048 1,869 92.8% 7.2%
Kerry South 47,677 53.5% 23,540 1,550 93.9% 6.1%
Kildare North 54,104 54.4% 27,925 1,333 95.5% 4.5%
Kildare South 47,904 51.3% 22,958 1,359 94.5% 5.5%
Laois–Offaly 84,530 55.1% 43,176 2,773 94.0% 6.0%
Limerick East 77,884 54.3% 39,458 2,432 94.2% 5.8%
Limerick West 48,454 52.6% 23,634 1,422 94.4% 5.6%
Longford–Roscommon 63,968 56.2% 33,297 2,004 94.4% 5.6%
Louth 72,116 60.5% 40,664 2,607 94.0% 6.0%
Mayo 86,785 52.2% 42,264 2,248 95.0% 5.0%
Meath 92,053 54.2% 46,859 2,507 95.0% 5.0%
Sligo–Leitrim 64,538 57.1% 34,237 2,030 94.5% 5.5%
Tipperary North 53,368 57.4% 28,322 1,833 94.0% 6.0%
Tipperary South 51,439 58.0% 27,636 1,696 94.3% 5.7%
Waterford 69,793 54.2% 35,282 2,140 94.3% 5.7%
Westmeath 48,289 54.7% 24,488 1,529 94.2% 5.8%
Wexford 84,228 52.6% 40,810 2,938 93.3% 6.7%
Wicklow 80,252 57.0% 42,528 2,664 94.2% 5.8%
Total 2,747,088 56.2% 1,442,583 85,748 94.4% 5.6%

After the referendum[edit]

The referendum returning officer certified the result in the High Court, which notified the Oireachtas, and the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1998 was signed into law by the President on 3 June 1998.This ipso facto effected the insertion of Article 28.7 of the Constitution and started the clock for the 12-month window (Article 28.7.5º) within which the British-Irish Agreement would be ratified. The British-Irish Agreement Act 1999 served in Irish law to ratify the treaty and establish the associated cross-border institutions.[5] The act was signed into law on 22 March 1999 but would not be commenced by the Taoiseach until the same date as the corresponding British law (the Northern Ireland Act 1998). Both were dependent on participation of the parties in Northern Ireland.

Political disagreements within Northern Ireland meant that establishment would not take place by the deadline of 2 June 1999, so the Oireachtas rushed through a 12-month extension ("such longer period as may be provided for by law" in Article 28.7.5º).[6] A minor amendment to the British-Irish Agreement was signed on 18 June and the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999 was accordingly amended on 25 June.[7] The institutions were established on 2 December 1999, when the Irish government commenced the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999 as amended,[8] and the UK government simultaneously commenced the Northern Ireland Act 1998.[9] The Irish government accordingly made the declaration specified by Article 28.7.3º,[1] triggering the replacement of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, the insertion of Article 29.8, and the omission of the transitory subsections 3º–5º of Article 29.7.

Later developments[edit]

The provision in the amended Article 2 quoted above that "It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation" was affected by the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, passed in 2004. That amendment did not alter the text of Article 2 but instead inserted a new section in Article 9 which limited the constitutional right to citizenship by birth to individuals with at least one Irish-citizen parent.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "British-Irish Agreement: Announcement". Dáil Éireann debates. 2 December 1999. pp. Vol.512 No.2 p.3 cc.337–340. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Agreement reached in the multi-party negotiations" (PDF). Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 10 April 1998. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  3. ^ Lewis, Ciaran (6 July 1998). "High Court has no jurisdiction to review constitutionality of a bill". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 March 2020.; Riordan v. An Taoiseach (No.2) [1998] IEHC 77
  4. ^ a b "Referendum Results 1937–2015" (PDF). Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 23 August 2016. p. 60. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  5. ^ "British-Irish Agreement Act 1999 — No. 1 of 1999". Bills and Acts. Oireachtas. 8 March 1999. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  6. ^ "Declaration under Article 29.7 of the Constitution (Extension of Time) Act 1999". Bills and Acts. Oireachtas. 18 May 1999. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  7. ^ "British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Act 1999 — No. 16 of 1999". Bills and Acts. Oireachtas. 22 June 1999. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  8. ^ "S.I. No. 377/1999 — British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999 (Commencement) Order, 1999". electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). Retrieved 10 March 2020.; "S.I. No. 378/1999 — British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Act, 1999 (Commencement) Order, 1999". electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  9. ^ "The Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Appointed Day) Order 1999". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  10. ^ Twenty-Seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 2004 Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland.

External links[edit]