Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
To lower the voting age from 21 to 18
LocationRepublic of Ireland Ireland
Date7 December 1972 (1972-12-07)
Results
Votes %
Yes 724,836 84.64%
No 131,514 15.36%
Valid votes 856,350 94.79%
Invalid or blank votes 47,089 5.21%
Total votes 903,439 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 1,783,604 50.65%

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1972 is an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland which lowered the voting age for all national elections and referendums in the state from twenty-one to eighteen years of age. It was approved by referendum on 7 December 1972 and signed into law on 5 January 1973.

Background[edit]

The Fourth Amendment altered Article 16 which deals with elections to Dáil Éireann (the house of representatives of the Oireachtas). However other provisions of the constitution state that anyone entitled to vote in Dáil elections is also entitled to participate in the election of the President and in referendums, so the amendment affected these votes as well. The amendment did not, however, affect the minimum age at which one could be elected to the Dáil, and this remained at twenty-one.

It was submitted to a referendum on the same day as the Fifth Amendment, which removed from the constitution reference to the "special position" of the Catholic Church and recognition of certain other named denominations.

Changes to the text[edit]

The Amendment altered the text of Article 16.1.2º in the following manner:

Deletion from Article (removed text in bold):

Every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of twenty-one years who is not disqualified by law and complies with the provisions of the law relating to the election of members of Dáil Éireann, shall have the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann.

Addition to Article 16.1.2 (added text in bold):

Every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of eighteen years who is not disqualified by law and complies with the provisions of the law relating to the election of members of Dáil Éireann, shall have the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann.

Oireachtas debate[edit]

On 16 February 1972, Brendan Corish, leader of the Labour Party, proposed a constitutional amendment as a private member's bill to lower the voting age to 18.[1] This was opposed by the Fianna Fáil government as it did not wish to hold such a referendum until after the referendum on the proposed Third Amendment on Accession to the European Communities (which was passed on 10 May 1972).[2]

On 28 June 1972, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Patrick Hillery moved the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 1972 on behalf of the Fianna Fáil government.[3] At second stage, it was proposed by the Minister for Local Government Bobby Molloy.[4] It was supported by the opposition parties Fine Gael and the Labour Party, and passed final stages in the Dáil on 11 July.[5] It passed all stages in the Seanad on 13 July, and proceeded to a referendum on 7 December 1972.[6]

Result[edit]

Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[7]
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 724,836 84.64
No 131,514 15.36
Valid votes 856,350 94.79
Invalid or blank votes 47,089 5.21
Total votes 903,439 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 1,783,604 50.65
Results by constituency[7]
Constituency Electorate Turnout (%) Votes Proportion of votes
Yes No Yes No
Carlow–Kilkenny 59,415 55.2% 26,688 3,966 87.1% 12.9%
Cavan 37,229 54.0% 16,737 1,875 89.9% 10.1%
Clare 39,413 47.5% 15,389 2,177 87.6% 12.4%
Clare–Galway South 34,820 52.5% 15,425 1,759 89.8% 10.2%
Cork City North-West 36,115 48.2% 12,737 3,881 76.6% 23.4%
Cork City South-East 36,476 54.1% 14,561 4,436 76.6% 23.4%
Cork Mid 49,402 53.8% 21,069 4,040 83.9% 16.1%
Cork North-East 50,016 54.8% 21,521 4,201 83.7% 16.3%
Cork South-West 38,285 53.1% 15,259 3,947 79.4% 20.6%
Donegal North-East 37,924 43.4% 13,620 1,408 90.6% 9.4%
Donegal–Leitrim 38,540 46.2% 15,092 1,538 90.8% 9.2%
Dublin Central 46,775 43.7% 15,663 3,752 80.7% 19.3%
Dublin County North 58,761 48.6% 23,386 4,370 84.3% 15.7%
Dublin County South 45,289 55.9% 20,239 4,461 81.9% 18.1%
Dublin North-Central 49,073 49.5% 18,734 4,850 79.4% 20.6%
Dublin North-East 55,483 52.9% 23,801 4,835 83.1% 16.9%
Dublin North-West 44,369 46.5% 16,419 3,471 82.5% 17.5%
Dublin South-Central 50,400 48.6% 18,915 4,983 79.1% 20.9%
Dublin South-East 37,840 50.4% 14,485 3,809 79.2% 20.8%
Dublin South-West 41,740 44.8% 14,942 2,831 84.1% 15.9%
Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown 56,151 57.7% 25,656 6,032 81.0% 19.0%
Galway North-East 34,358 47.1% 13,856 1,296 91.4% 8.6%
Galway West 35,999 42.6% 12,747 1,981 86.5% 13.5%
Kerry North 37,018 43.0% 13,088 1,801 92.8% 7.2%
Kerry South 36,391 43.2% 12,967 1,652 88.7% 11.3%
Kildare 40,065 50.6% 16,851 2,492 87.1% 12.9%
Laois–Offaly 56,344 55.0% 25,663 4,079 86.3% 13.7%
Limerick East 47,001 54.5% 19,074 5,177 78.7% 21.3%
Limerick West 35,904 56.4% 16,621 2,548 86.7% 13.3%
Longford–Westmeath 47,095 49.4% 18,738 2,964 86.3% 13.7%
Louth 40,278 50.4% 16,249 2,984 84.5% 15.5%
Mayo East 34,810 46.2% 13,830 1,271 91.6% 8.4%
Mayo West 34,106 44.3% 12,734 1,321 90.6% 9.4%
Meath 39,040 50.2% 15,665 2,665 85.5% 14.5%
Monaghan 36,214 47.3% 14,000 1,899 88.1% 11.9%
Roscommon–Leitrim 37,682 51.3% 15,827 2,035 88.6% 11.4%
Sligo–Leitrim 38,049 48.8% 15,068 2,129 87.6% 12.4%
Tipperary North 34,754 58.0% 15,862 2,780 85.1% 14.9%
Tipperary South 46,127 58.6% 21,342 3,963 84.3% 15.7%
Waterford 39,513 53.6% 16,836 3,241 83.8% 16.2%
Wexford 49,881 52.3% 21,121 3,408 86.1% 13.9%
Wicklow 39,389 52.0% 16,359 3,206 83.6% 16.4%
Total 1,783,604 50.7% 724,836 131,514 84.6% 15.4%

Implementation[edit]

The 19th Dáil was dissolved on 5 February 1973 and a general election was held on 28 February. However, the electoral register was updated only every 15 April, so those under 21 were unable to vote despite the amendment. A 20-year-old student, represented by Seán MacBride, asked the High Court to postpone the election to vindicate his right to vote.[8] He lost his case, although he was awarded his costs due to its "public importance".[8]

Although the names of under-21s had already been added to the provisional register, it was the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1973 passed on 9 April which reduced the age limits in statute law in line with the amended constitution.[9][10] The first under-21s to vote were a few graduates in the National University of Ireland and University of Dublin elections to the 13th Seanad.

The later Ninth Amendment passed in 1984 altered the text of Article 16.1.2º in a manner which would permit legislation to include certain people who are not citizens to be added to the register for elections to Dáil Éireann. However, the franchise for presidential elections and referendums remained restricted to Irish citizens.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: First Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 16 February 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Private Members' Business. - Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: First Stage (Resumed)". Houses of the Oireachtas. 23 February 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: First Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 28 June 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: Second Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 5 July 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: Committee and Final Stages". Houses of the Oireachtas. 11 July 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: Second and Subsequent Stages". Houses of the Oireachtas. 13 July 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Referendum Results 1937–2015" (PDF). Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 23 August 2016. p. 29. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b Ferriter, Diarmaid (1 November 2012). Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s. Profile Books. pp. 94–95. ISBN 9781847658562. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  9. ^ O'Leary, Michael (30 March 1973). "Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1973: Second Stage". Seanad Éireann debates. pp. Vol.74. No.6 p.11 cc.513–4. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  10. ^ "Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1973". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 30 March 2014.

External links[edit]