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.
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 textEdit
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.
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. 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).
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. At second stage, it was proposed by the Minister for Local Government Bobby Molloy. It was supported by the opposition parties Fine Gael and the Labour Party, and passed final stages in the Dáil on 11 July. It passed all stages in the Seanad on 13 July, and proceeded to a referendum on 7 December 1972.
|Invalid or blank votes||47,089||5.21|
|Registered voters and turnout||1,783,604||50.65|
|Constituency||Electorate||Turnout (%)||Votes||Proportion of votes|
|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%|
|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%|
|Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown||56,151||57.7%||25,656||6,032||81.0%||19.0%|
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. He lost his case, although he was awarded his costs due to its "public importance".
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. The first under-21s to vote were a few graduates of the National University and Dublin University 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.
- "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: First Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 16 February 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- "Private Members' Business. - Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: First Stage (Resumed)". Houses of the Oireachtas. 23 February 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: First Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 28 June 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: Second Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 5 July 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: Committee and Final Stages". Houses of the Oireachtas. 11 July 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972: Second and Subsequent Stages". Houses of the Oireachtas. 13 July 1972. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- "Referendum Results 1937–2015" (PDF). Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 23 August 2016. p. 29. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
- Ferriter, Diarmaid (1 November 2012). Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s. Profile Books. pp. 94–95. ISBN 9781847658562. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
- 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.
- "Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1973". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 30 March 2014.