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Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
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Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

The Twenty-sixth Amendment of Bunreacht na hÉireann, the constitution of the Republic of Ireland, permitted the state to ratify the Nice Treaty. It was effected by the Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1998, which was approved by referendum on 19th October 2002 and signed into law on the 7th November of the same year.

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

Changes to the text

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.

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.

The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 1.2 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7 of this section where that common defence would include the State.

Overview

The Twenty-sixth Amendment was the second attempt of the Irish government 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). The previous attempt to approve the treaty was the Twenty-fourth Amendment Bill, which was rejected by voters in 2001. One of the arguments made against the Nice Treaty in 2001 was that it might compromise the Republic's traditional 'neutrality'. For this reason as well as permitting the state to ratify Nice the Twenty-sixth Amendment added to the constitution a new provision, Article 29.4.9, guaranteeing that the state would not enter a EU mutual defence pact. The Eighteenth Amendment was introduced by the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition government of Bertie Ahern and was also supported by Fine Gael and Labour (the two major opposition parties). However it was opposed by a number of other groups, including Sinn Féin and the Green Party. Voting in the referendum went 62.9% in favour and 37.1% against.

The Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution was one of a number of amendments that have been made to expressly permit the state to ratify changes to the founding treaties of the European Union (others have been the Tenth, Eleventh and Eighteenth Amendments). These amendments have all been adopted in response to the 1987 ruling of the Supreme Court, in the case of Crotty v. An Taoiseach, that major changes to the treaties are unconstitutional unless accompanied by an amendment. However it has been a matter of scholarly dispute as to whether or not each and every one of these treaties has been sufficiently far-reaching as to actually necessitate a constitutional amendment. The Nice Treaty contained a number of optional discretionary provisions that member-states could activate at a later time after its adoption. The Twenty-sixth Amendment permitted the Republic to choose to exercise these options, provided its decision was approved by the Oireachtas (parliament).

It should be noted that, while the changes shown above are those made to the English language version of the constitution, constitutionally it is the Irish text that has precedence. The Twenty-sixth Amendment followed directly after the Twenty-third Amendment. This is because, for technical reasons, officially there are no Twenty-fourth or Twenty-fifth Amendments.

See also

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Preceded by:
23rd Amendment (2002)
Amendments of the Constitution of Ireland Followed by:
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