At its meeting last week, the Government reviewed the progress on Bills to amend the Constitution and decided that, subject to passage of the necessary Constitution Amendment Bills, two referendums will be held on the same day as the local and European elections in May 2019. Work is being progressed in my Department, in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to inform the development of an appropriate Constitution Amendment Bill in good time for the holding of a referendum on extending the franchise at Presidential elections to Irish citizens resident outside the State. The second referendum to be held in tandem with the local and European elections will be on divorce which will be a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality.
The Government noted that further consideration will be given to the timing of a referendum on reducing the voting age to 16. However, it is not proposed that this referendum be held in 2019.
In addition, the Government noted all proposals for referendums contained in Private Members’ Bills, in particular the Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) Bill (No.2) 2016 which is now at Committee stage. On 20 November 2018, the Government approved the priority drafting of amendments to be made to this Bill, with work currently on-going. These amendments are to focus on retaining the entity charged with the provision of public water services in public ownership. It is intended that the draft wording arising, once finalised, will be brought back to Government for approval and can then be brought forward as a proposed amendment to the Bill.