Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2015

The Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015 (bill no. 6 of 2015) was a proposed amendment to the constitution of Ireland to reduce the minimum age of candidacy for the office of President of Ireland from 35 to 21. The bill was introduced to the Oireachtas in January 2015 by the Fine Gael–Labour government, after which both houses of the Oireachtas passed the bill. The bill was rejected by the electorate in a referendum on 22 May 2015 by 73.1% against to 26.9% in favour.[1] This was the largest losing margin of any referendum in Ireland.

Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2015
22 May 2015 (2015-05-22)

To reduce the minimum age of candidacy for the office of President from 35 to 21
LocationRepublic of Ireland Ireland
Results
Response Votes %
Yes 520,898 26.94%
No 1,412,602 73.06%
Valid votes 1,933,500 99.18%
Invalid or blank votes 15,938 0.82%
Total votes 1,949,438 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 3,221,681 60.51%

Irish amendment 35 gradient.svg
How the electorate voted, by constituency. Proportion of the valid poll voting no:
  80%–75%
  74.99%–70%
  69.99%–65%
  64.99%–60%

BackgroundEdit

The office of President was created when the Constitution was enacted in 1937. Douglas Hyde, the first president, took office in 1938. The age limit of 35 was set in the draft constitution introduced by the then Executive Council, in line with that of other countries, including the President of the United States.[2][3] The draft subsection originally read:[4]

Every citizen who has reached his 35th year of age and is not placed under disability or incapacity by law, is eligible for election to the office of President.

When the President of the Executive Council, Éamon de Valera, undertook to delete the words "and is not placed under disability or incapacity by law", he stated, "And if I get any support from the other members of the House, I should be inclined to say that I would wipe out the 35 years of age provision, too."[3] The latter was not pursued.[5]

Until the 1990 election of Mary Robinson, presidents were older men at the end of their career. The 1996 Constitution Review Group was divided on whether to reduce the age limit; the majority favoured "no change, or only a minor reduction", while a minority felt the age should be the same as for election to the Oireachtas (currently 21).[2] In 1997, the Oireachtas joint committee on the Constitution disagreed, recommending a reduction to age 18.[6] Private member's bills to reduce the age limit to 18 were introduced in 1999 by Eamon Gilmore and in 2011 by Catherine Murphy; neither was enacted.[7][8]

After the 2011 general election, Fine Gael and the Labour Party formed a coalition government, the programme of which included the establishment of a Constitutional Convention to examine potential changes on specified issues, including "Reducing the President's term of office from seven to five years, and aligning with the European Parliament elections and local elections".[9] The convention considered the issue at its first working meeting, in January 2013, and voted against either of the specified proposals; however, it voted in favour of two others: reducing the nomination age from 35 to 21, and allowing candidate nomination by electors.[10] The age-reduction proposal was passed by 50 votes to 47, with three "don't know".[10] The choice of relatively minor questions for the convention's first meeting was defended by the Taoiseach, who said, "It is not that there are no exceptionally difficult constitutional issues, but the aim is to see how the constitutional convention will actually operate and whether it can do its work effectively."[11] The convention's report on its first meeting was formally submitted in March 2013, and the government formally responded in July, when Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised a referendum "before the end of 2015" on reducing the age of candidacy; the proposal on popular nomination was referred to an Oireachtas committee.[12] In December 2014, the cabinet agreed to hold the promised referendum in May 2015,[13] and in January 2015, the amendment bill was formally introduced in the Dáil by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly.[14]

The government held simultaneous referendums on 22 May 2015, on the presidential age bill and another constitutional amendment, to allow same-sex marriage.[15][16] A Dáil by-election in Carlow–Kilkenny was held on the same day.[15]

WordingEdit

The bill as passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas proposed to change the wording of Article 12.4.1º from [emphasis added]:[2][17]

(in Irish) Gach saoránach ag a bhfuil cúig bliana tríochad slán, is intofa chun oifig an uachtaráin é.

(in English) Every citizen who has reached his thirty-fifth year of age is eligible for election to the office of President.

to:

(in Irish) Is intofa chun oifig an Uachtaráin gach saoránach ag a bhfuil bliain agus fiche slán.

(in English) Every citizen who has reached the age of twenty-one years is eligible for election to the office of President.

Although the proposed change concerned both versions of the text, it is the Irish language version that takes precedence. As well as the substantive change down to 21, the proposed wording modifies two ambiguities in the English-language version of the text. Firstly, it avoids an ambiguity as to the year in question: one's "thirty-fifth year" begins immediately after one's thirty-fourth birthday, so a strict reading of the text does not have the intended meaning. Secondly, the male pronoun "his" is removed in favour of gender-neutral language.[18] These changes were however essentially symbolic: two women, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese had already been presidents of Ireland, and the original Irish text unambiguously indicates the age of eligibility as 35.

Campaign and debateEdit

The presidential age referendum was the subject of far less media coverage or active advocacy than the marriage referendum, and described as "forgotten",[19] "invisible",[20] or "the other referendum".[21] Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Sinn Féin were nominally in favour, though some representatives of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil said they would be voting No.[22] The Labour Party took no position on the referendum, having supported the bill in the Oireachtas.[22] The Union of Students in Ireland supported a Yes vote.[23][24] Solidarity called for a Yes vote in the referendum and put forward an amendment in the Dáil to reduce the age to 18.

In The Irish Times in February 2015, academics Theresa Reidy and Colum Kenny took opposite stances on the proposal.[25][26] Reidy argued that it would encourage youth participation in politics and broaden the choice of candidates available to voters, while admitting that the issue was far less important than other amendment proposals not proceeded with.[25] Kenny argued that any young person likely to succeed in being nominated would be "a creature of a political party, chosen and funded as a gimmick", and suggested that a No vote would "send a message to Oireachtas Éireann that politicians ought not to toy with the Constitution or patronise the electorate".[26] Diarmaid Ferriter endorsed an internet comment that "the only under 35-year-olds who would think that they would be suitable for the role would be the sort of self-righteous Yoof upstarts that should be let nowhere near such an important and distinguished position".[27] Fintan O'Toole called it "the single most frivolous proposal ever put to the people".[28] Among Yes-advocates, Michael Noonan named Michael Collins and (jocularly) Jesus as prominent people too young to run;[29] among No-advocates, Niall Horan was similarly instanced.[30][31]

ResultEdit

The national result was as follows:

Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015[1]
Choice Votes %
  No 1,412,602 73.06
Yes 520,898 26.94
Valid votes 1,933,500 99.18
Invalid or blank votes 15,938 0.82
Total votes 1,949,438 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 3,221,681 60.51
Results by constituency[32][33]
Constituency Electorate Turnout (%) Votes Proportion of votes
Yes No Yes No
Carlow–Kilkenny 104,735 65.44% 17,507 50,738 25.65% 74.35%
Cavan–Monaghan 99,265 57.19% 14,167 41,997 25.22% 74.78%
Clare 81,809 59.43% 11,576 36,633 24.01% 75.99%
Cork East 81,271 60.93% 12,290 36,808 25.03% 74.97%
Cork North-Central 75,263 59.87% 11,980 32,625 26.86% 73.14%
Cork North-West 62,143 62.76% 8,860 29,822 22.90% 77.10%
Cork South-Central 92,422 63.85% 15,789 42,799 26.95% 73.05%
Cork South-West 60,141 61.70% 8,733 28,091 23.72% 76.28%
Donegal North-East 59,721 51.45% 8,678 21,797 28.48% 71.52%
Donegal South-West 62,171 51.55% 8,895 22,857 28.01% 71.99%
Dublin Central 57,193 57.95% 12,012 20,796 36.61% 63.39%
Dublin Mid-West 67,091 63.39% 12,096 30,089 28.67% 71.33%
Dublin North 72,523 65.81% 14,069 33,358 29.66% 70.34%
Dublin North-Central 53,785 68.83% 10,878 25,915 29.57% 70.43%
Dublin North-East 59,549 66.37% 11,583 27,664 29.51% 70.49%
Dublin North-West 51,207 59.61% 9,363 20,857 30.98% 69.02%
Dublin South 103,969 67.83% 22,788 47,349 32.49% 67.51%
Dublin South-Central 80,406 60.56% 16,560 31,753 34.28% 65.72%
Dublin South-East 59,376 57.98% 12,848 21,307 37.62% 62.38%
Dublin South-West 71,232 63.41% 13,437 31,387 29.98% 70.02%
Dublin West 65,643 64.37% 12,279 29,742 29.22% 70.78%
Dún Laoghaire 80,176 67.03% 16,690 36,633 31.30% 68.70%
Galway East 85,900 56.00% 10,673 36,901 22.43% 77.57%
Galway West 95,180 55.16% 13,948 38,080 26.81% 73.19%
Kerry North–West Limerick 62,523 57.20% 8,244 27,178 23.27% 76.73%
Kerry South 57,524 58.17% 7,280 25,863 21.97% 78.03%
Kildare North 79,014 62.05% 13,259 35,459 27.22% 72.78%
Kildare South 60,384 58.40% 9,151 25,880 26.12% 73.88%
Laois–Offaly 108,436 58.37% 14,951 47,793 23.83% 76.17%
Limerick 64,100 58.50% 8,495 28,621 22.89% 77.11%
Limerick City 61,421 63.30% 10,719 27,865 27.78% 72.22%
Longford–Westmeath 87,425 54.75% 11,508 35,898 24.28% 75.72%
Louth 102,561 59.91% 16,219 44,754 26.60% 73.40%
Mayo 97,296 57.49% 13,167 42,231 23.77% 76.23%
Meath East 64,956 59.68% 9,790 28,756 25.40% 74.60%
Meath West 63,649 56.27% 8,794 26,706 24.77% 75.23%
Roscommon–South Leitrim 59,392 61.49% 8,143 28,055 22.50% 77.50%
Sligo–North Leitrim 62,031 57.78% 8,859 26,633 24.96% 75.04%
Tipperary North 65,118 62.53% 9,306 31,040 23.07% 76.93%
Tipperary South 58,262 59.27% 7,815 26,379 22.85% 77.15%
Waterford 79,669 59.35% 12,251 34,534 26.19% 73.81%
Wexford 111,474 57.80% 16,430 47,424 25.73% 74.27%
Wicklow 94,275 68.76% 18,818 45,535 29.24% 70.76%
Total 3,221,681 60.51% 520,898 1,412,602 26.94% 73.06%

ReactionEdit

The National Youth Council of Ireland regretted the defeat, which it said "was due, in part, to a failure on the Government’s side to explain or promote the issue".[34]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Referendum Results 1937–2015" (PDF). Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 23 August 2016. p. 95. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Constitution Review Group (1996). "The President". Report (PDF). Dublin: Stationery Office. Issues, no.5: the minimum age of eligibility for election to the office of President. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Bunreacht na hÉireann (Dréacht)—Coiste (d'ath-thógaint)". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 26 May 1937. Vol.67 No.9 c.1103–04. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Bunreacht na hÉireann (Dréacht)—Coiste (ath-thogaint)". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 25 May 1937. Vol.67 No.8 c.1004. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  5. ^ "Committee on Finance — Recommittal". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 9 June 1937. Vol.68 No.2 c.128. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  6. ^ All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution (1997). Third Progress Report: The President (PDF). Official publications. Vol. Pn 6250. Dublin: Stationery Office. p. 13. ISBN 0707661617. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1999 [PMB] (No. 11 of 1999)". Bills 1997-2015. Oireachtas. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (The President) Bill 2011 (Number 71 of 2011)". Bills 1997-2015. Oireachtas. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  9. ^ "Constitutional Convention: Motion". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 10 July 2012. pp. Vol.772 No.1 p.25. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  10. ^ a b Convention on the Constitution (March 2013). "First Report" (PDF). Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Constitutional Convention (Continued)". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 9 October 2012. Vol.777 No.4. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Report of the Convention on the Constitution: Statements". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 18 July 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  13. ^ McConnell, Daniel (16 December 2014). "Government clears way for referendum to reduce presidential candidate age to 21". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  14. ^ "Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015 (Number 6 of 2015)". Bills 1997-2015. Oireachtas. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Wording of same-sex marriage referendum published". RTÉ.ie. 21 January 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  16. ^ "Marriage Referendum and Age of Presidential Candidates Referendum 22 May 2015". Referendum Commission. Archived from the original on 29 May 2015. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  17. ^ "Bill as passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas" (PDF). Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015. Oireachtas. 1 April 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  18. ^ "Explanatory Memorandum" (PDF). Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015. Oireachtas. January 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  19. ^ Minihan, Mary (23 May 2015). "Presidential age vote destined to be forgotten referendum". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  20. ^ Courtney, Lorraine (15 May 2015). "Ignoring the needs of our youth in an invisible referendum". Irish Independent. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  21. ^ Moran, Oliver (18 May 2015). "We're being short-changed by the 'other referendum'". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  22. ^ a b Moran, Oliver (17 May 2015). "Lots of TDs and Senators are voting No in that 'other' referendum next week". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  23. ^ Fitzpatrick, Glenn (28 April 2015). "Why shouldn't a young person be able to run for president?". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  24. ^ "Debate: Age Of Eligibility For Election To The Office Of President". Marian Finucane show. RTÉ Radio 1. April 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  25. ^ a b Reidy, Theresa (5 February 2015). "Yes: Why we should vote in favour of lowering the age of candidates eligible to become President". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  26. ^ a b Kenny, Colum (5 February 2015). "No: Why we should vote against lowering the age of candidates eligible to become President". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  27. ^ Ferriter, Diarmaid (1 February 2015). "Do under-35s have what it takes to be president of Ireland?". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 February 2015. One acerbic contributor to a popular politics website made the colourful, and I suspect accurate [emphasis added], observation that “the only under 35-year-olds who would think that they would be suitable for the role would be the sort of self-righteous Yoof upstarts that should be let nowhere near such an important and distinguished position”.
  28. ^ O'Toole, Fintan (3 March 2015). ": How hopes raised by the Constitutional Convention were dashed". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  29. ^ "'Even Jesus could not be President' jokes Minister Noonan". Irish Examiner. 5 May 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  30. ^ McNamee, Michael Sheils (1 April 2015). "It turns out Ireland really doesn't want Niall Horan to be President". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  31. ^ Lynch, Andrew (7 May 2015). "'Niall Horan referendum' seems to be headed in just one direction - down". The Herald. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  32. ^ Ní Fhlanghaile, Ríona (26 May 2015). "Referendum Act 1994: Constitutional Referendum" (PDF). Iris Oifigiúil (in Ga and English). Dublin: Stationery Office (42): 1070–72.
  33. ^ "Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015". Referendum Commission. May 2015. Archived from the original on 26 May 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  34. ^ "Press Releases". National Youth Council of Ireland. May 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015.

External linksEdit