Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
To abolish the right to Irish citizenship by birth
Location Republic of Ireland Ireland
Date 11 June 2004 (2004-06-11)
Votes %
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/turnout 3,041,688 59.95%

The Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 2004 (previously bill no. 15 of 2004) amended the Constitution of Ireland to provide that children born on the island of Ireland to parents who were both foreign nationals would no longer have a constitutional right to Irish citizenship.[1] It was approved by referendum on 11 June 2004 and signed into law on 24 June of the same year.[2] It affected in part 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:

1º 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.

2º This section shall not apply to persons born before the date of the enactment of this section

Previous Article 9.2 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.

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] Though immigration concerns did not feature much as an issue in the referendum campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment, it was given as an argument against in the Referendum Commission's leaflet:

"The new Article 2 will give a constitutional right of citizenship to anyone born in Ireland. This will make it very difficult to change the laws on citizenship and it may prevent the enactment of necessary laws to regulate immigration."

In the following years this become the subject of much controversy 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.[6] 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.[7]

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 the Irish Human Rights Commission, a statutory body, and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, a civil society non-profit organisation.[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 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
Results by constituency[13]
Constituency Electorate Turnout (%) Votes Proportion of votes
Yes No Yes No
County Carlow 37,914 57.5% 17,393 4,151 80.8% 19.2%
County Cavan 47,258 67.3% 25,320 6,030 80.8% 19.2%
County Clare 83,351 64.6% 42,822 10,329 80.6% 19.4%
Cork City 88,874 56.1% 38,931 10,531 78.8% 21.2%
County Cork 265,657 61.7% 127,992 33,805 79.2% 20.8%
County Donegal 116,125 62.2% 52,985 17,990 74.7% 25.3%
Dublin City 336,795 53.2% 138,685 39,323 78.0% 22.0%
Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown 148,125 55.3% 57,869 23,740 71.0% 29.0%
Fingal 138,807 56.6% 63,448 14,600 81.3% 18.7%
Galway City 41,925 50.3% 15,849 5,045 75.9% 24.1%
County Galway 118,937 64.8% 60,770 14,848 80.4% 19.6%
County Kerry 106,377 67.5% 56,147 14,635 79.4% 20.6%
County Kildare 127,162 52.4% 54,108 12,070 81.8% 18.2%
County Kilkenny 64,218 63.7% 32,079 8,251 79.6% 20.4%
County Laois 46,775 65.8% 24,809 5,549 81.8% 18.2%
County Leitrim 22,875 75.7% 12,977 4,034 76.3% 23.7%
Limerick City 37,649 56.6% 17,059 4,077 80.8% 19.2%
County Limerick 94,500 63.8% 47,858 11,643 80.5% 19.5%
County Longford 27,029 71.3% 15,970 2,958 84.4% 15.6%
County Louth 82,501 58.4% 39,633 8,185 82.9% 17.1%
County Mayo 96,888 65.5% 48,029 14,164 77.3% 22.7%
County Meath 116,300 54.4% 52,291 10,535 83.3% 16.7%
County Monaghan 44,074 69.1% 23,868 6,107 79.7% 20.3%
County Offaly 51,929 62.5% 25,771 6,207 80.6% 19.4%
County Roscommon 45,398 68.1% 24,269 6,191 79.7% 20.3%
County Sligo 46,861 68.9% 23,405 8,499 73.4% 26.6%
South Dublin 175,139 52.7% 75,510 16,403 82.2% 17.8%
Tipperary North 51,358 70.2% 27,671 7,815 78.0% 22.0%
Tipperary South 61,518 67.8% 32,246 8,557 79.1% 20.9%
Waterford City 29,290 60.0% 14,113 3,321 81.0% 19.0%
County Waterford 45,687 64.1% 23,301 5,671 80.5% 19.5%
County Westmeath 57,740 60.4% 27,782 6,565 80.9% 19.1%
County Wexford 98,705 58.4% 45,488 11,790 79.5% 20.5%
County Wicklow 87,947 60.8% 41,072 12,076 77.3% 22.7%
Total 3,041,688 59.9% 1,427,520 375,695 79.2% 20.8%

Note: For this referendum, the constituencies used were each county and city, which were deemed to be constituencies for the purpose of the poll. Usually in Irish referendums the general election constituencies are used.

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 9.1.2º of the s:Constitution of Ireland.
  6. ^ Case C-200/02 Chen v. Home Secretary Opinion of Advocate General para. 12 and 13.
  7. ^ Twenty-Seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 2004 Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland.
  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 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. ^ a b "Referendum Results 1937–2015" (PDF). Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 23 August 2016. p. 75. Retrieved 9 May 2018. 

External links[edit]