Seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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The Seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland provided that the procedure for the election of six members of the Senate by university graduates could be altered by law. It was effected by the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1979 which was approved by referendum on 5 July 1979 and signed into law on 3 August of the same year.

Changes to the text[edit]

  • Alterations to Article 18.4 (new text is in bold):
1. The elected members of Seanad Éireann shall be elected as follows:
i. Three shall be elected by the National University of Ireland.
ii. Three shall be elected by the University of Dublin.
iii. Forty-three shall be elected from panels of candidates constituted as hereinafter provided.
2. Provision may be made by law for the election, on a franchise and in the manner to be provided by law, by one or more of the following institutions, namely:
i. the universities mentioned in subsection 1 of this section,
ii. any other institutions of higher education in the State, of so many members of Seanad Éireann as may be fixed by law in substitution for an equal number of the members to be elected pursuant to paragraphs i and ii of the said subsection 1.
A member or members of Seanad Éireann may be elected under this subsection by institutions grouped together or by a single institution.
3. Nothing in this Article shall be invoked to prohibit the dissolution by law of a university mentioned in subsection 1 of this section.


Prior to the Seventh Amendment it was a constitutional requirement that three members of Seanad Éireann, the Irish senate, be elected by the graduates of the National University of Ireland and three by the graduates of the University of Dublin (better known as Trinity College). With the amendment this requirement was changed to merely one that six senators be elected by the graduates of any institutions of higher education in any manner that might be determined by law by the Oireachtas (parliament). The amendment also ensured that the mere mention of the National University of Ireland and of the University of Dublin would not prevent either of these universities being dissolved in future. Furthermore, while the dissolution of the National University of Ireland was actively discussed in the 1970s with a view to legislation following the Seventh Amendment, this never came to pass. While the changes shown above are those made to the English language text of the constitution, constitutionally it is the Irish text that has precedence.

The Seventh amendment was introduced by a Fianna Fáil government. It was submitted to a referendum on the same day as the Sixth Amendment, which dealt with the validity of certain child adoption orders, and was approved on a low turnout by 552,600 (92.4%) votes in favour to 45,484 (7.6%) against.


Seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[1]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum passed Yes 552,600 92.40
No 45,484 7.60
Valid votes 598,084 96.06
Invalid or blank votes 24,562 3.94
Total votes 622,646 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 2,179,466 28.57

Consequential changes[edit]

No change in the university constituency system was made in the decades after the amendment was passed. The Fine Gael–Labour government returned after the 2011 election proposed to abolish the Seanad altogether. After the proposal was rejected by referendum in 2013, the government agreed instead to reforming the Seanad. In February 2014, it published a draft Seanad Electoral (University Members) (Amendment) Bill, which would create a single six-seat constituency in which anyone with a degree-level qualification from a recognised institution would be eligible to vote.[2] In 2015, the Working Group on Seanad Reform appointed by the government issued its report, which endorsed the 2014 bill but also recommended that 30 of the 43 Vocational Panel senators should be directly elected, and that university graduate voters would have to choose between voting in the university constituency or one of the five panel constituencies.[3] The Fine Gael-led government returned after the 2016 election made implementing the 2015 report a priority.[4] Simon Coveney, answering a Dáil question in July 2016 as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, said implementation of the 1979 amendment would be "further considered in the context of [the 2015 report] ... and having regard to the work of the last government on [the 2014 draft bill].[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Referendum Results" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "General Scheme of the Seanad Electoral (University Members) (Amendment) Bill". Government of Ireland. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Working Group on Seanad Reform (13 April 2015). "Part I: Executive Summary: Elections to reformed Seanad" (PDF). Report. pp. 7–8, recommendations (i) and (ii). Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  4. ^ Government of the 32nd Dáil (11 May 2016). "Political and Constitutional Reform" (PDF). A Programme for a Partnership Government. p. 149-150. Retrieved 8 September 2016. We will pursue the implementation of the Manning Report, as a priority. 
  5. ^ "Proposed Legislation". Written answers. 5 Jul 2016. pp. 19070/16. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 

External links[edit]