Friday, 15 May 2015

Remembering the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution

"The challenge facing all Irishmen and women today is to find a new vision."

Thus began An Taoiseach, Jack Lynch's introduction to his party's referendum pamphlet on the Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution. This example of  election literature was recently found in a 1960's edition of the Irish Constitution where perhaps it was been cross-referenced with the complete text.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland lowered the voting age for all national elections and referendums in the state from twenty-one to eighteen years of age.

More controversially the Fifth Amendment removed the State's recognition of the special position of the Catholic Church within Article 44.1.2.

These amendments were clearly seen as important changes for the nation and following the previous successful referendum on entering the EEC, represented a momentum for change. It is evident from An Taoiseach's message that this was seen as desirable not least in response to the ongoing trauma of the Troubles which were at their bloodiest at the time.

What is often forgotten in terms of the Fifth amendment is mention of the other religious denominations was also removed, as had been detailed in Article 44.1.3.

"The State also recognises the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland, as well as the Jewish Congregations and the other religious denominations existing in Ireland at the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution."

The referendums took place on December 7th 1972. There was a national turnout of 50.7% and both amendments were comfortably passed. The Results of Presidential Elections and Referenda 1937-1979 available in the Official Publications Collection details the results.

"In the case of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972, the total number of votes  recorded in favour of the proposal was 724, 836 and the total number recorded against the proposal was 131,514. In the case of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1972, the total number of votes recorded in favour of the proposal was 721,003 and the total number recorded against the
proposal was 133,430."

The following screenshot from the same publication displays the results by constituency of the Fifth Amendment. There is a notably higher vote against the removal of the Special Position of the Catholic Church in Cork. This is possibly explained by the fact that in Cork, Bishop Lucey was one of the only members of the hierarchy to speak out against the particular amendment.

Hugo Kelly
Law, Official Publications & EDC Librarian

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