Manner in which referenda are held

The Resolution approving establishment of the Assembly outlines five topics to be considered by the Assembly. The fourth of these was the manner in which referenda are held.

Consideration of this topic has concluded and a Final Report and Recommendations will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly.

Schedule of Meetings

It is a matter for the Assembly to structure its work programme and agree a date for consideration of this topic. At the private session during the September meeting, the Members agreed to switch the order of the Assembly's remaining two topics, fixed term parliaments and the manner in which referenda are held respectively.

The Assembly considered this topic on 13-14 January 2018. Please click on the date to view material presented to the Assembly that weekend. 

A revised full calendar of meetings is available here

Work Programme

When the resolution approving the establishment of the Assembly was being moved in both Houses of the Oireachtas, Minister English stated the following in relation to this topic:

“That said, we will ask the citizens' assembly to make recommendations to the Dáil on further constitutional changes, including on the eighth amendment, on fixed-term parliaments and on the manner in which referenda are held, for example, whether super referendum days, whereby a significant number of referenda take place on the same day, should be held.”

The full text of Minister English's speech can be read here

Background Material

The following materials may be useful when considering this topic - 

Referendum Commission 

The Referendum Commission is an independent body that explains the subject matter of a referendum proposal, promotes public awareness of a referendum and encourages the electorate to vote. It is open to the Minister the Environment, Community and Local Government to appoint a Commission any time a referendum is held. More information about the Referendum Commission is available on their website - .

Every Referendum Commission to date has published a report following the referendum. These reports are available to read below: 

Documents Published by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (previously the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government) has produced a number of documents in this area, including:


The Assembly invited members of the public, representative groups and citizen organisations to make a submission on this topic. The submissions process formally opened on 13 November to 22 December 2017.

To view submissions received on this topic, please click here

  • Signpost Document

The Signpost Document aims to identify the key issues/topics/themes which presented in the submissions. The full text of the 206 published submissions received is available to read here . The Assembly Secretariat has grouped them into broad thematic areas and has attempted to present a selection of the perspectives which were received.

The signpost document is available to read here


The recommendations were reached by ballot paper voting and follow a weekend of deliberation which focussed on a number of areas. These included the history of referendums in Ireland, the legal background, regulations surrounding a referendum, impact of regulation on the media, turnout, ‘super’ referendums, and citizens initiatives.

A total of 11 questions appeared on the ballot and the recommendations were reached by majority vote.

The following recommendations were made by the Assembly;

  1. 94% voted for the functions of the Referendum Commission to be carried out by a permanent Electoral Commission;
  2. 94% voted for the Referendum Commission to be obliged to give its view on significant matters of factual or legal dispute that arise during a referendum campaign in the public domain (including on social media);
  3. 87% voted in agreement with the current position where the Government is not permitted to spend public money to advocate on one side only of a referendum campaign;
  4. 68% voted that the Government should provide money to both sides equally in referendum campaigns;
  5. The Assembly made a number of recommendations in respect of spending in referendum campaigns, namely:
        • 98% voted for the Oireachtas to develop and effectively implement a system of spending limits in referendum campaigns for registered political parties, campaign groups and individuals;
        • 72% voted for anonymous donations to registered political parties and campaign groups to be prohibited;
  6. 80% voted for to have more than one referendum on unrelated issues at the same time;
  7. In the event of more than one referendum at the same time, the Assembly voted that the maximum number should be no more than two (41.7%);
  8. The Assembly made a number of recommendations in respect of multi-option voting, namely:
        • 76% voted in favour of allowing more than two options on a ballot paper in a constitutional referendum;
        • 52% voted in favour that when there are more than two options on the ballot paper in a constitutional referendum the outcome should be decided by PR STV;
  9. 89% voted in favour that in principle the Oireachtas and the Government should give effect to the outcome of a referendum within 5 years;
  10. The Assembly voted on a number of measures to enhance voter turnout in referendums, namely:
        • 56% for early voting in the weeks before the poll;
        • 100% for weekend voting;
        • 70% for online voting;
        • 83% for wider availability of postal voting;
        • 89% for the ability to vote at any polling station in the State;
        • 95% for the automatic inclusion of all eligible voters on the electoral register;
        • 80% for lowering the voting age to 16;
        • 77% for allowing voting by otherwise eligible voters, who are resident outside the State, for no more than five years;
        • 96% for greater provision of voter education on Referendums;

NOTE: On a proposal to extend voting over a number of days, Assembly members voted 51% NO and 49% YES; On a proposal to make voting compulsory, Assembly members voted 85% NO and 15% YES;

11.The Assembly voted on a number of proposals for citizens’ initiatives, namely:

          • 69% in favour of putting a constitutional referendum proposal to the people;
          • 69% in favour of a citizens’ initiative to put a legislative change proposal to the people (including enacting, changing or repealing legislation);
          • 83% voted in favour of a citizens’ initiative to put an item on the agenda for decision by the Oireachtas.

    Developments in Member Recruitment - February 2018

    Since the conclusion of the Citizens’ Assembly’s most recent weekend meeting on 13-14 January 2018, when it considered and voted on the Manner in which Referenda are held, the Chair of the Assembly, the Hon. Mary Laffoy has been made aware that seven of the new members who were present and voting at that weekend had been recruited in a manner which did not comply with the agreed methodology for recruitment of Assembly members. This matter was brought to the attention of the Chair, following a randomised check of the agreed recruitment methodology by the Assembly Secretariat. The matter was then raised with RED C Research and Marketing Ltd, who are responsible for the recruitment of Assembly members, who conducted an extensive audit. The findings of this audit are available to read below.

    The Chair has today, 21 February 2018, released a full statement on the matter which can be read here. RED C's separate statement providing further details on this matter can be read here.

    Please click on the links below to access the following documents:

    The following additional documents are referenced in the internal audit prepared by RED C and have been available on our website here. For ease of access, they can also be accessed by clicking on the links below:


    The Report by the Assembly on this topic is available here

    Video Archive

    Archive footage is able to view here