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Constitutional Amendments

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 27 June 2017

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Questions (46)

Bríd Smith


46. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Taoiseach the referenda he is considering as a priority in the coming period. [28837/17]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Under the Programme for a Partnership Government, the Government is committed to holding Constitutional referenda on the following matters:

- Article 41.2.1, regarding a "woman's life within the home"

- Article 40.6.1, on the offence of blasphemy

- Giving the office of Ceann Comhairle constitutional standing

- Ireland's participation in the Unified Patent Court.

Three of these proposals arise from the Convention on the Constitution which sat from January 2013 to February 2014. The Government has responded to all of the Convention's Reports. One of the Convention's recommendations, of particular importance, is in relation to amending the Constitution to give citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections. In March of this year, Government approved, in principle, to the holding of this referendum and the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government is working on this matter.

In addition, the Programme for a Partnership Government committed the Government to establish a Citizens' Assembly with a mandate to look at a limited number of key issues, including the Eighth Amendment. In July 2016 the Houses of the Oireachtas approved establishment of the Assembly. The Assembly is chaired by a former Supreme Court Judge, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy. It operates independently of the Government and it will report direct to the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Assembly has concluded its deliberations on its first topic, the Eighth Amendment. The Assembly must now draft its report on the topic. Ms Justice Laffoy has indicated that she intends to have this completed by the end of this month. The Oireachtas will then refer it to the recently established Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment which in turn will bring its conclusions to the Houses for debate. As I have already indicated, it is my intention to hold a referendum on this matter in 2018.

The Programme for a Partnership Government also says that on foot of the recommendation of the Banking Inquiry, the Government will seek a review of the powers of Oireachtas Committees in conducting inquiries and, based on this review, will consider whether there should be a Constitutional referendum to strengthen Committees' powers.

Aside from a referendum on the Eighth Amendment taking place next year, no decision has been made as yet as regards timings for any other planned referenda. Before any referendum would be scheduled, I would of course bring a proposal to Government and hold discussions with Opposition Leaders.

Questions Nos. 47 to 49, inclusive, resubmitted.