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The Twenty-fourth Amendment was a failed proposal to amend the Constitution of Ireland to allow the state to ratify the Nice Treaty of the European Union.[1] The proposal was rejected in a referendum held in June 2001, sometimes referred to as the Nice I referendum.[1] However the treaty was eventually approved by Irish voters when the Twenty-sixth Amendment was approved in the Nice II referendum, held in 2002.

The full title of the failed amendment was the Twenty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001. Following its rejection the number 24 was not used again — there has therefore officially been no successfully enacted "Twenty-fourth Amendment" of the Irish constitution.

Contents

Proposed changes to the text

  • Proposed insertion of new Article 29.4.7:
The State may ratify the Treaty of Nice amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related Acts signed at Nice on the 26th day of February, 2001.
  • Proposed insertion of new Article 29.4.8:
The State may exercise the options or discretions provided by or under Articles 1.6, 1.9, 1.11, 1.12, 1.13 and 2.1 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7 of this section but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Introduction

The Twenty-fourth Amendment was the first attempt of the Government of Ireland to have the Treaty of Nice approved in a referendum. The purpose of the treaty was to amend the founding treaties of the European Union (EU). Ireland was the only country of the then 15 EU member states to put the question to the people in a referendum

The Twenty-fourth Amendment was introduced by the Fianna FáilProgressive Democrats coalition government of Bertie Ahern and was supported by Fine Gael and the Labour Party (the two major opposition parties). However it was opposed by the Green Party, Sinn Féin and Socialist Party.

Referendum result

The proposal was put to a referendum on 7 June 2001 but was rejected by 529,478 (53.9%) against to 453,461 (46.1%) in favour. On the same day two other amendment referenda passed: the Twenty-first Amendment, which introduced a constitutional prohibition on the death penalty, and the Twenty-third Amendment, which permitted the state to recognise the International Criminal Court.

Twenty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland Bill, 2001[2]
Yes or no Votes Percentage
Referendum failed No 529,478 53.87%
Yes 453,461 46.13%
Valid votes 982,939 98.51%
Invalid or blank votes 14,887 1.49%
Total votes 997,826 100.00%
Voter turnout 34.79%
Electorate 2,867,960

Consequences

Europe's political classes were surprised by the rejection of the Treaty by Irish voters. The turnout itself was low (34%), partly a result of the failure of the major Irish political parties to mount a strong campaign on the issue, presuming that the Irish electorate would pass the Treaty as all previous such Treaties had been passed by big majorities.

However many Irish voters were critical of the Treaty contents, believing that it marginalised smaller states. Others questioned the impact of the Treaty on Irish neutrality. Other sections viewed the leadership of the Union as out of touch and arrogant, with the Treaty offering a perceived chance to 'shock' the European leadership into a greater willingness to listen to its critics. (A similar argument was made when Denmark initially voted down the Treaty of Maastricht.) In large measure, the Treaty of Nice was lost because pro-treaty supporters simply did not bother to vote, while the 'Vote No' campaigns were effective in raising serious questions as to the value of the Treaty.

The Treaty of Nice was eventually ratified by the Twenty-sixth Amendment in October 2002.

See also

References

External links

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