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Constitutional Background

The most striking feature of Ireland's Constitution used to be its Anti-Divorce provision in Article 41. However, this unique constitutional ban on the dissolution of marriage has changed with the Irish Referendum on Divorce on 24 Nov 1995 which was confirmed by Supreme Court decision on 12 June 1996 (cf. Article 41 (3.2)).

History and News

  • 23 June 1999: Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 3 June 1998: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 20 May 1998: The High Court rejects an application by Mr Denis Riordan for an injunction preventing the the referendum.
  • 10 April 1998: An Agreement on the future of Northern Ireland is reached in the Mulit-Party Negotiations at Belfast.
  • 25 March 1998: The Supreme Court dismisses an application by the Campaign to Separate Church and State to prevent the Minister for Education paying chaplains in community schools, ruling that such payments were constitutional, but adding that it was constitutionally impermissible for a chaplain to instruct any child in a religion other than the child's own without the consent of parents.
  • 9 March 1998: Mr Justice Brian Walsh, former Supreme Court judge, until recently member of the European Court of Human Rights and one of Ireland's most distinguished jurists, dies aged 79.
  • Dec 1997: The Taoiseach announces that the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution is to consider cabinet confidentiality with a view to facilitating another referndum on the matter. Moreover, the new committee, to be chaired by Mr Brian Lenihan, TD, is charged with undertaking a full review of the Constitution.
  • 14 Nov 1997: Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 11 Nov 1997: Prof Mary McAleese is inaugurated as eigth President of Ireland.
  • 1 Nov 1997: Prof Mary McAleese (representing Fianna Fáil) wins 58.7 per cent on second count of presidential elections (45.2 per cent on first count).
  • 25 Sep 1997: Mr Séamus Brennann, T. D., Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and Government Chief Whip, outlines the legislation programme of the Goverment for the forthcoming parliamentary session.
  • 12 Sep 1997: The Taoiseach nominates Dr. Maurice Hayes, Ms Ann Leonard, Ms Enda Bonner,Dr Dermot Fitzpatrick, Mr Tom Fitzgerald, Mr Frank Chambers, Dr. Edward Haughey, Ms Helen Keogh, Ms Mairin Quill, Mr John Dardis and Mr John Gibbons to be members of Seanad Éireann.
  • 24 July 1997: The President of Ireland, Mrs Mary Robinson, declares her intention to resign from office September 12th - 11 weeks before the end of her term - to take up her new post as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • 19 July 1997 IRA declare unequivocal restoration of 1994 ceasefire.
  • 26 June 1997: Bertie Ahern, TD, is elected Taoiseach by 85 votes to 78 in the 28th Dail. He is supported by the Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrat TDs, as well as Sinn Fein TD, Caomhghin O Caolain, and Independent deputies Mildred Fox, Harry Blaney and Jackie Healy-Rae. The Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat coalition form a minority government comprising 2 PDs and 14 Fianna Fail TDs. 
  • 13 June 1997: The Taoiseach has nominated five new senators to fill vacancies arising from the general election. 
  • 6 June 1997: General Election. Number of Deputies: Fianna Fail - 77, Fine Gael - 54, Labour - 17, Progressive Democrats - 4, Democratic Left - 4 , The Green Party - 2, Sinn Fein - 1. Neither one of the two major has won an overall majority. 
  • 16 May 1997: Commenting on a speech delivered in Belfast this afternoon by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, the Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dick Spring, TD, said that it underlined the extent of the opportunity that now exists to create an inclusive political process leading to the negotiation of a lasting settlement. He said there was evidence of an energetic approach to the problem on the part of the new British Government. 
  • 15 May 1997: The Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dick Spring, TD, has welcomed the announcement of the British Government's intention to introduce legislation on contentious parades in Northern Ireland. 
  • 15 May 1997: Pursuant to an advice of the Taoiseach, Mr. John Bruton, under Article 13.2 of the Constitution, the President dissolves Dail Eireann. General Elections will take place on 6 June 1997. 
  • 15 May 1997: The Supreme Court declares the Employment Equality Bill unconstitutional, ruling that clauses in the Bill outlawing discrimination against the disabled would interfere with the legitimate interests and rights of other parties, especially with the property rights of employers. The Bill had been referred to the Supreme Court by the President on 3 April 1997. 
  • 14 May 1997: Acting on the advice of the Government, the President, Mary Robinson, appoints Mr Kevin O'Higgins, a Judge of the Circuit Court and Mr John Quirke, S.C., to be Judges of the High Court. 
  • 6 May 1997: The Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution (No 2) Bill is published. A referendum paving the way for a relaxation in Cabinet confidentiality is expected to be held in November, on the same day as polling in the presidential election. The proposed amendment follows a Supreme Court ruling in August 1992 that Cabinet discussions should remain absolutely confidential. 
  • 23 April 1997: The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution propose a new series of amendments to the Constitution, relating to the Presidency, local government, the constitutionality of Bills and the position of women in the home. 
  • 17 March 1997: The Progressive Democrats suggest that the Constitution should be amended to allow 20,000 citizens to nominate a candidate for the Presidential election. 
  • 14 March 1997: Acting on the advice of the Government, the President appoints the Honourable Mr Justice Henry Denis Barron to be a Judge of the Supreme Court, to fill the vacancy which arose on the retirement of the Honourable Mr Justice John Joseph Blayney
  • 12 March 1997: The President of Ireland, Mrs Mary Robinson, announces that she will not seek a second term of office as President of Ireland 
  • 11 March 1997: The Government nominate Judge John L. Murray to be proposed for reappointment as a Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities for a further 6 year term, from 7 October, 1997.
  • 12 Dec 1996: Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 28 November 1996: A referendum on the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill is held. The proposed amendment of the Constitution, reads as follows: "Provision may be made by law for the refusal of bail by a court to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person." The majority of the people (by a margin of 384,772 votes, or 74.83 per cent) vote in favour of the amendment. The turnout, at 29.21 per cent, was the second-lowest of any referendum since the founding of the State. The Minister of Justice expects legislation implementing the bail referendum amendment to be passed by March, 1997.
  • 17 June 1996: Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 15 June 1996: After a number of smaller attacks, an IRA bomb destroys the center of Manchester. 
  • 12 June 1996: Supreme Court confirms Second Divorce Referendum. 
  • 9 Feb 1996: IRA ends 17-month ceasefire with a massive bomb in London's docklands. 
  • 24 Nov 1995: Success of Second Divorce Referendum to allow divorce under certain conditions.
  • 23 Dec 1992: Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
  • 25 Nov 1992: Referendum on the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution, regarding the right to life of the unborn) failed; the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment succeed.
  • 16 July 1992: Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 22 June 1987: Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 1986: First divorce referendum failed.
  • 2 Aug 1984: Ninth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 7 Oct 1983: Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 3 Aug 1979: Sixth and Seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 5 Jan 1973: Fourth and Fifth Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 8 June 1972: Third Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 30 May 1941: Second Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 2 Sep 1939: First Amendment of the Constitution Act.
  • 1 July 1937: Constitution adopted.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - December 16th, 2010 / Thanks to G.H. Manten.
For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.