Ireland: Convention paves way for referendum on same-sex-marriage
As an exercise to modernise Ireland’s constitution, the constitutional convention met in Dublin on 13 and 14 April 2013 to discuss the introduction of same-sex-marriage in the Republic of Ireland. At the end of the weekend meeting the members, 100 Irish citizens and parliamentarians altogether, recommended to change the Irish constitution with a majority of 79 per cent to allow for civil marriage of same-sex couples. If the Irish government accepts the vote, Irish citizens would be called to decide on the issue in a referendum.
The Irish convention on the constitution was established by both Houses of the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas, with the purpose of considering and deliberating on these matters:
- reducing the Presidential term of office to five years;
- lowering the voting age;
- provision for same-sex marriage;
- review of the electoral system;
- amending the clause on the role of women in the home;
- increasing the participation of women in politics;
- removal of the offence of blasphemy from the constitution; and
- an optional issue, to be submitted by the public.
Each topic is deliberated at a weekend meeting. The outcome is non-binding: The convention submits a recommendation to both houses of the Irish parliament, which they have to debate within four months. If the parliament and the government adopt the recommendation, a referendum will be held on the issue.
The convention comprises 66 citizens, who were randomly chosen by a polling company to represent a cross-section of Ireland’s electorate. 29 members of the Irish Parliament, representatives of the Northern Ireland assembly, substitutes and a chairperson add up to the overall number of 100 members.
The convention resumed office in December 2012 and is to complete its work within 12 months. It already met on the role of women in the home, the voting age and the length of the presidential term. The convention decided to amend the role of women in the home. It voted in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 but rejected reducing the presidential term from seven to five years.
Like any other meeting, also the impact of the convention’s vote on same-sex-marriage is open. As the Irish Times reports on 14 April, the Irish government has promised to decide on whether to accept the recommendation after a debate in both houses of the parliament later this year.
The website of Ireland’s constitutional convention at www.constitution.ie
Text by Cora Pfafferott