Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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The Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland provided that children born on the island of Ireland to parents who were both foreign nationals would no longer have a constitutional right to citizenship of the Republic of Ireland.[1] It was effected by the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act, 2004, which was approved by referendum on 11 June 2004 and signed into law on 24 June of the same year.[2] It partially reversed changes made to the Constitution by the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland which was passed as part of the Good Friday Agreement.[3]

Changes to the text[edit]

  • Insertion of new Article 9.2:
1° Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, a person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, who does not have, at the time of the birth of that person, at least one parent who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen is not entitled to Irish citizenship or nationality, unless provided for by law.
2° This section shall not apply to persons born before the date of the enactment of this section.
  • Previous Article 9.2 retained but renumbered as Article 9.3.


Prior to 1999 the right to citizenship by reason of birth in Ireland existed in ordinary legislation. The only people who had a constitutional right to citizenship were those who were citizens of the Irish Free State when the constitution came into force.[4] For those born after 1937 the Constitution stated that the "future acquisition and loss of Irish nationality and citizenship shall be determined in accordance with law".[5] This changed in 1999 when as part of the Nineteenth Amendment the following clause was inserted into Article 2 of the Constitution:

"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."[6]

This provision was intended to ensure that people from Northern Ireland would not be deprived of Irish citizenship, but also created a constitutional right to citizenship by birth.[4] If illegal immigration was not an issue in the referendum campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment it become the subject of much controversy in the following years with allegations that foreign nationals were engaging in "birth tourism" by presenting themselves at hospitals in the Republic or in Northern Ireland in the late stages of pregnancy to secure citizenship for their children. Although the true number of births attributable to birth tourism was greatly disputed during the referendum campaign, one prominent instance was that of Man Chen who travelled to Northern Ireland in 2000 so that her child would be an Irish citizen.[7] Chen's argument that she had the right to remain in the United Kingdom with her EU national child was before the European Court of Justice at the time of the referendum campaign.

If restricting the right to citizenship by birth was becoming politically popular it was not legally possible to do so in the light of the above cited provision without amending the Constitution. The Twenty-seventh Amendment did not alter the text of Article 2 but instead inserted a proviso which limited the constitution right to citizenship by birth to individuals with a least one Irish-citizen parent.[6]

The statutory right to citizenship by birth to the children of foreign nationals was not affected by the amendment but was restricted by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004 which came into force on 1 January 2005.[8]



The Twenty-seventh amendment was introduced by the Fianna FáilProgressive Democrats coalition government of Bertie Ahern. It was also supported by Fine Gael (the largest opposition party) but they refused to campaign due to what they complained was insufficient consultation before the poll. The amendment was opposed by the Labour Party,[9] the Green Party,[9] Sinn Féin,[9] and the Socialist Party, as well as by the Republic's official Human Rights Commission[9] and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.[9] It was also opposed by Northern Ireland's SDLP, as Irish citizenship is an option for people born there.

The government presented the amendment as a common sense proposal that would close a constitutional loop-hole and allow Irish law to be brought into line with the rest of Europe.[10] In 2004, no other nation of the European Union granted citizenship by birth in the same manner as the Republic of Ireland. However, citizenship by birth still exists in some non-European nations such as Canada and the United States.

Some criticisms of the amendment related merely to the manner in which it was proposed. Some argued that the amendment had been rushed through without proper debate and consultation. Because the constitutional right to citizenship had been introduced as part of the Good Friday Agreement it was argued that there should have been consultation with Northern Ireland political parties. In the lead-up to the referendum the Irish and British governments issued a joint statement saying that they did not regard the proposed constitutional change as affecting the British-Irish Agreement[11] (this being the inter-governmental component of the Good Friday Agreement). The Democratic Unionist Party cited the amendment as evidence that the Agreement could be changed.[12]

The referendum on the amendment was held on the same day as both European and local elections and so some argued that the Government was attempting to exploit popular prejudices to boost its election prospects. It was also argued that the Government had not presented sufficient evidence to show the amendment was necessary and that the numbers exploiting the constitutional "loop-hole" were in fact statistically small.

In the referendum, the amendment was ultimately approved, by a large majority of almost 80% in favour.


Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[13]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum passed Yes 1,427,520 79.17
No 375,695 20.83
Valid votes 1,803,215 98.89
Invalid or blank votes 20,219 1.11
Total votes 1,823,434 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 3,041,688 59.95

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Referendum Commission. "Irish Citizenship". Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  2. ^ Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 2004
  3. ^ Kennedy, Geraldine (15 February 2000). "Suspension of agreement leaves Ahern in constitutional dilemma: the Taoiseach has sound constitutional grounds for concern over the suspension of the Belfast Agreement". The Irish Times. 
  4. ^ a b Referendum Commission. "Refcom information booklet on Referendum on Irish Citizenship". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  5. ^ Article 9.1.2° of the s:Constitution of Ireland.
  6. ^ a b Twenty-Seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 2004 Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland.
  7. ^ Case C-200/02 Chen v. Home Secretary Opinion of Advocate General para. 12 and 13.
  8. ^ Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004 (Commencement) Order 2004 (S.I. No. 873/2004). Statutory Instrument of the Government of Ireland.
  9. ^ a b c d e Carol, Coulter. "Step-by-step guide to the upcoming citizenship referendum". Referendum 2004. Irish Times. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Crowley, Una; Gilmartin, Mary; Kitchin, Rob (March 2006). "Vote Yes for Common Sense Citizenship": Immigration and the Paradoxes at the Heart of Ireland's 'Céad Míle Fáilte'" (PDF). NIRSA Working Paper Series (30): 3. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "Citizenship Referendum: Interpretative Declaration by the Irish and British Governments regarding the British Irish Agreement" (PDF). 20 April 2004. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "Paisley: Referendum shows Agreement can change". 15 April 2004. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Referendum Results" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 

External links[edit]