Seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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Seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
To extend Seanad representation to graduates of other third-level institutions
LocationRepublic of Ireland Ireland
Date5 July 1979 (1979-07-05)
Results
Votes %
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/turnout 2,179,466 28.57%

The Seventh Amendment of the Constitution (Election of Members of Seanad Éireann by Institutions of Higher Education) Act 1979 is an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland that provides that the procedure for the election of six members of the Senate in the university constituencies could be altered by law. It was approved by referendum on 5 July 1979 and signed into law on 3 August of the same year.

Background[edit]

In the new Seanad created by the Constitution adopted in 1937, six seats were elected by universities: three by the National University of Ireland and three by the University of Dublin (or Trinity College, Dublin). The government in 1979 proposed splitting up the National University of Ireland (NUI) and creating separate universities in Cork, Dublin, and Galway. It was concerned that the outline of seats in the Constitution could act as a bar to this proposal, or that the new proposed universities would lose any representation. The constitutional amendment allowed a redistribution of the six university seats between these universities and any other institutions of higher education in the State. It also ensured that the section could not be invoked to prohibit the dissolution of either of the named universities.

Changes to the text[edit]

  • Alterations to Article 18.4 (new text is in bold):
1º. 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.
2º. 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.
3º. Nothing in this Article shall be invoked to prohibit the dissolution by law of a university mentioned in subsection 1 of this section.

Oireachtas debate[edit]

The Seventh amendment was introduced by Minister for Education John Wilson for the Fianna Fáil government.[1] He described the purpose of the bill as:

The purpose of the Bill is to remove an obstacle in the way of legislation to deal with university reorganisation. Article 18 (4) of the Constitution stipulates that three Members each shall be elected to the Seanad by the National University of Ireland and by the University of Dublin. A proposal to establish independent universities at Dublin, Cork and Galway in place of the National University of Ireland involves an alteration in the arrangements for the election of Members to the Seanad. It may be argued that the arrangements for the election of Members to the Seanad in accordance with the provisions of paragraphs (i) and (ii) of section 4 of Article 18 would automatically lapse to the relevant extent if one or both of the named universities ceased to exist. In this connection, the following considerations arise—

(i) the alternative arrangement, if any, which should be made for the election of Members in substitution for those Members which would otherwise be elected by the institution which ceased to exist: an amendment of the Constitution would be necessary for the purpose of allowing such an alternative arrangement to be made;

(ii) would it be permissible, in the absence of an appropriate amendment of Article 18 (4) of the Constitution, to enact legislation which would have the effect of altering the provision in that section of Article (18) for the election of Members to the Seanad?

(iii) Could Article 18 of the Constitution be invoked to prohibit the dissolution by law of a university mentioned in Article 18 (4)?

It was not opposed by the opposition parties Fine Gael and the Labour Party and the Bill passed final stages in the Dáil on 23 May.[2] It passed all stages in the Seanad on 31 May and proceeded to a referendum on 5 July.[3]

Result[edit]

The referendum was held 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[4]
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
Results by constituency[4]
Constituency Electorate Turnout (%) Votes Proportion of votes
Yes No Yes No
County Carlow 24,967 35.8% 7,889 624 92.7% 7.3%
County Cavan 38,362 27.0% 9,245 673 93.2% 6.8%
County Clare 57,689 26.3% 13,793 775 94.7% 5.3%
Cork City 84,908 35.5% 27,441 1,803 93.8% 6.2%
County Cork 166,470 33.2% 49,900 3,061 94.2% 5.8%
County Donegal 80,232 23.0% 16,524 1,237 93.0% 7.0%
Dublin City 361,067 22.9% 70,791 9,047 88.7% 11.3%
County Dublin 254,107 26.2% 56,611 8,125 87.4% 12.6%
County Galway 112,351 25.6% 25,976 1,666 94.0% 6.0%
County Kerry 83,780 27.0% 20,508 1,133 94.8% 5.2%
County Kildare 59,355 25.3% 13,335 1,167 92.0% 8.0%
County Kilkenny 44,688 29.1% 11,569 799 93.5% 6.5%
County Laois 31,743 34.5% 9,773 656 93.7% 6.3%
County Leitrim 20,657 22.9% 4,198 286 93.6% 6.4%
Limerick City 37,938 40.9% 13,994 924 93.8% 6.2%
County Limerick 63,716 32.8% 19,017 973 95.1% 4.9%
County Longford 20,703 27.5% 5,080 331 93.9% 6.1%
County Louth 54,893 34.2% 16,705 1,376 92.4% 7.6%
County Mayo 81,912 22.3% 16,899 616 96.5% 3.5%
County Meath 57,530 26.9% 13,758 1,074 92.8% 7.2%
County Monaghan 34,093 26.8% 8,183 557 93.6% 6.4%
County Offaly 36,463 32.9% 10,786 697 94.1% 5.9%
County Roscommon 37,052 27.6% 9,276 493 94.9% 5.1%
County Sligo 37,123 27.1% 8,984 612 93.6% 6.4%
North Tipperary 38,550 39.5% 13,711 793 94.5% 5.5%
South Tipperary 49,280 35.9% 15,846 1,016 94.0% 6.0%
Waterford City 20,238 33.9% 6,096 448 93.2% 6.8%
County Waterford 35,284 33.3% 10,441 771 93.1% 6.9%
County Westmeath 38,406 26.3% 8,924 750 92.2% 7.8%
County Wexford 62,531 40.4% 22,574 1,521 93.7% 6.3%
County Wicklow 53,378 31.8% 14,773 1,498 90.8% 9.2%
Total 2,179,466 28.6% 552,600 45,484 92.4% 7.6%

Note: For this referendum and the Sixth Amendment held on the same day, the constituencies used were each county and county borough (city), which were deemed under section 2 of the Referendum (Amendment) Act 1979 to be constituencies for the purpose of the poll.[5][6] Usually in Irish referendums the Dáil Éireann general election constituencies are used.

Consequential changes[edit]

Ultimately, the NUI was not disbanded, nor was any alteration made to the electorate of the six university seats.

The Fine Gael–Labour government returned after the 2011 election proposed to abolish the Seanad in its entirety. After the proposal was rejected by referendum in 2013, the government agreed instead to consider 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.[7] 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.[8]

The Fine Gael-led government returned after the 2016 election made implementing the 2015 report a priority.[9] Simon Coveney, answering a Dáil question in July 2016 as Minister for Housing, Planning, 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].[10]

In February 2018, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar proposed to establish an Oireachtas special committee to meet for eight months and "develop specific proposals to legislate" implementation of the 2015 report; he added, "The university panels should be retained as recommended. They have served us well, although they should be reformed to implement the result of the 1979 referendum and open up the franchise to graduates of all higher level institutions of education."[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Seventh Amendment of the Constitution (Election of Members of Seanad Eireann by Institutions of Higher Education) Bill, 1979: Second Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 22 May 1979. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Seventh Amendment of the Constitution (Election of Members of Seanad Éireann by Institutions of Higher Education) Bill, 1979: Committee and Final Stages". Houses of the Oireachtas. 23 May 1979. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Seventh Amendment of the Constitution (Election of Members of Seanad Éireann by Institutions of Higher Education) Bill, 1979: Committee and Final Stages". Houses of the Oireachtas. 31 May 1979. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Referendum Results 1937–2015" (PDF). Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 23 August 2016. p. 35. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Referendum Results 1937–2015" (PDF). Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 23 August 2016. p. 34. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Referendum (Amendment) Act, 1979". Irish Statute Book. 1 June 1979. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  7. ^ "General Scheme of the Seanad Electoral (University Members) (Amendment) Bill". merrionstreet.ie. Government of Ireland. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Government of the 32nd Dáil (11 May 2016). "Political and Constitutional Reform" (PDF). A Programme for a Partnership Government. MerrionStreet.ie. pp. 149–150. Retrieved 8 September 2016. We will pursue the implementation of the Manning Report, as a priority.
  10. ^ "Proposed Legislation". Written answers. KildareStreet.com. 5 July 2016. pp. 19070/16. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  11. ^ Varadkar, Leo (1 February 2018). "Statement by the Taoiseach". Seanad debates. KildareStreet.com. Retrieved 15 March 2018.

External links[edit]