Constitutional Reviews

Bunreacht na hÉireann has been the subject of periodic review. What emerges from the reviews, including the more recent ones by the Constitution Review Group and the two All-Party Oireachtas committees that have preceded this one, is that the Constitution is a fundamentally sound document that commands the respect of the people and serves them well. However, the reviews suggest that in addition to the twenty-three amendments already carried out, some further amendments are necessary or desirable in order to renew the Constitution fully.

In 1966, at the instigation of the then Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, an informal Oireachtas committee undertook a general review of the Constitution and issued a report a year later. In 1968, a legal committee, chaired by the Attorney General, produced a draft report. The 1972 Inter-Party Committee on the Implications of Irish Unity addressed constitutional issues in relation to Northern Ireland. Its work was continued by the 1973 All-Party Oireachtas Committee on Irish Relations and later by the 1982 Constitution Review Body, a group of legal experts under the chairmanship of the Attorney General. None of these three groups published a report.

The New Ireland Forum was established in 1983. Its report in 1984 covered some constitutional issues. In 1988 the Progressive Democrats published a review entitled Constitution for a New Republic. Constitutional issues in regard to Northern Ireland were again addressed by the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation established by the government in October 1994. The Forum suspended its work in February 1996 but met once more in December 1997. The Constitution Review Group, an expert group established in 1995, published its report in July 1996. The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution 1996-97 published two progress reports in 1997, the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution 1997-2002 published five progress reports and two commissioned works, and the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution 2002— has to date published two progress reports.

Sources of demands for constitutional change

The reviews — and political experience — have identified seven major sources of the demands for constitutional change:

1 Northern Ireland

2 European Union

3 international human rights developments

4 socioeconomic change

5 working experience of the Constitution

6 outmoding of some provisions

7 inaccuracies in the text.

The Constitution Review Group (CRG)

The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution 1996-97

The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution 1997-2002