EU Related Referendums

Ireland has carried out several referendums related to the EU. Legally all changes to the Irish Constitution must be made by reference to the people, and a legal case in the 1980s established that European Union treaties had constitutional force and so were subject to referendum.

The latest referendums held in Ireland dealt with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. The first one was rejected by the voters on 12 June 2008. The treaty had been intended to enter into force on 1 January 2009, but had to be delayed following the Irish rejection. The 'no' campaign succeeded by focusing on issues such as loss of sovereignty, the loss of an Irish Commissioner, moral issues – in particular the possibility that Lisbon might enable the legalization of abortion in Ireland and the direction of the ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade talks (O`Malley, 2009).

Other issues of sovereignty included threats to Ireland's neutrality, and the possibility of conscription to an EU army. The 'yes' campaign, mainly led by the government parties of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, tried to refute these arguments, but once planted in the public's mind, such emotive issues became difficult to neutralize (O`Malley, 2009).

As the Irish 'no' vote prevented the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in EU, the Irish government was asked by the Union to come up with a solution, and given Ireland's size, there was very little likelihood that it could force the other Member States to go back to negotiate a new treaty. As such, it left the Irish government very little option but to indicate that it would rerun the referendum in 2009.

The Treaty of Lisbon was ratified by the Twenty-eighth Amendment in October 2009.

Referendum on the Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty 2009, second referendum. Constituencies


O`Malley, E. 2009. Austria. European Journal of Political Research, Volume 48: 986-991.

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