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Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
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Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

The Seventeenth Amendment of the Bunreacht na hÉireann, the constitution of the Republic of Ireland, provided that the confidentiality of meetings of the cabinet would not prevent the High Court from ordering that certain information be disclosed when this was in the public interest. It was effected by the Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1997, which was approved by referendum on 30th October 1997 and signed into law on the 14th November of the same year.

Table of contents
1 Changes to the text
2 Overview
3 See also
4 External link

Changes to the text

The confidentiality of discussions at meetings of the Government shall be respected in all circumstances save only where the High Court determines that disclosure should be made in respect of a particular matter-

i. in the interests of the administration of justice by a Court, or

ii. by virtue of an overriding public interest, pursuant to an application in that behalf by a tribunal appointed by the Government or a Minister of the Government on the authority of the Houses of the Oireachtas to inquire into a matter stated by them to be of public importance.


In 1992, during the enquiries of a tribunal into political corruption, the Supreme Court ruled that, as the constitution stood, the confidentiality of meetings of the Government (the Republic's cabinet) was unbreachable and absolute. The court derived its ruling from Article 28.4.2, which requires that the Government observe the principle of collective responsibility. The purpose of the Seventeenth Amendment was to allow cabinet confidentiality to be relaxed in certain circumstances.

The amendment was adopted during the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition government of Bertie Ahern but had been first drafted and suggested by the previous Fine Gael-Labour government led by John Bruton. The amendment, therefore, had the support of all four major parties. The referendum occurred on the same day as the 1997 presidential election, and voting went 632,777 (52.6%) in favour and 569,175 (47.4%) against. It should be noted that, while the change shown above is that made to the English language version of the constitution, constitutionally it is the Irish text that has precedence.

See also

External link

Preceded by:
16th Amendment (1996)
Amendments of the Constitution of Ireland Followed by:
18th Amendment (1998)