Meeting of the Assembly on The Manner in Which Referenda are Held

The Citizens' Assembly met on 13-14 January 2018 to consider its fourth topic, the manner in which referenda are held.

Agenda for meeting of the Citizens' Assembly on the manner in which referenda are held

Saturday's Proceedings

The Chair's opening speech on the Saturday morning is available to read here

Session 1: Referendums in Ireland - History and outcomes to date

Gary Murphy is Professor of Politics and Head of the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University. He has published extensively on modern Irish politics. He has held visiting professorships at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame. His latest book is Electoral Competition in Ireland since 1987: the politics of triumph and despair (Manchester, 2016). He appears regularly in the print and broadcast media. 

Prof. Murphy's delivery of his paper on "Referendums in Ireland - History and outcomes to date" was accompanied by a slideshow presentation. His presentation to the Assembly can be watched back here.

Session 2: Referendums in Ireland - Legal background and process

Niamh Hyland is a Senior Counsel practising in the Law Library since 1996 specialising in the areas of EU law (including public procurement, competition, healthcare, telecommunications and environmental law), regulatory law (including health and financial services), constitutional law, commercial law, insurance law and administrative law (including regulated industries and planning). She acts for both public sector bodies as well as for private clients. Prior to practising at the Bar, Niamh was a Foundation Scholar of Trinity College, did a Master’s Degree at Magdalen College Oxford, lectured in Trinity College in European Union law as the Jean Monnet Professor, and worked as a Referendaire at the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg for the late Judge Donal Barrington and as a Euro-Jus Advisor at the European Commission Representation in Dublin.

Ms Hyland's delivery of her paper on "Referendums in Ireland - Legal background and processto the Assembly can be watched back here.

Session 3: Referendum Campaigns: Legal Regulation

Dr Conor O’Mahony is a senior lecturer at University College Cork School of Law, where he has lectured in constitutional law and child law since 2005. His scholarship on constitutional law focuses particularly on issues relating to children and families, constitutional interpretation and referendums, and has been published in a variety of Irish and international journals. He has actively engaged in policy and law reform processes, including addressing the Constitutional Convention and Oireachtas Committees. He regularly contributes to debate and analysis on constitutional issues in the broadcast and print media.

Dr. O'Mahony's delivery of his paper on "Legal Regulation of Referendum Campaigns"  to the Assembly can be watched back here.

Session 4: Referendum Campaigns : Legal Regulation - Impact on the Media

Mark Brennock is Director of Public Affairs at Murray, and provides strategic communications advice to a range of public and private sector organisations. He has been communications adviser to the Referendum Commission since 2008, during which time he has been project manager of the public information campaign for seven Referendum Commission campaigns covering ten separate referendum proposals. He was previously a journalist for over 20 years, mainly with The Irish Times where as Political Correspondent and Chief Political Correspondent he covered a number of referendum campaigns.

Mr. Brennock's delivery of his paper on "Referendum Campaign: Impact on the media of regulation" was accompanied by a slideshow presentation. His presentation to the Assembly can be watched back here.

Session 5: Voter turnout, super referendums and repeat referendums

Michael Marsh, MRIA, is an emeritus professor of political science at Trinity College Dublin. The author of more than one hundred  professional  articles on parties and electoral behaviour, he has co-edited each of the last five books in the How Ireland Voted series, and has been a principal investigator for the Irish National Election Study since its foundation. He was co-author or co-editor of several books arising out of those studies: The Irish Voter (Manchester, 2008), A Conservative Revolution? (Oxford, 2017) and The Post-Crisis Irish Voter (Manchester, 2018).

Prof. Marsh's  delivery of his paper on "Voter turnout, super referendums and repeat referendums" was accompanied by a slideshow presentation. His presentation to the Assembly can be watched back here.

Session 6: Citizens initiatives and direct democracy

Dr Theresa Reidy is a political scientist in the Department of Government and Politics at University College Cork. Her research interests lie in the areas of electoral behaviour, party politics and political institutions.

Dr Reidy's delivery of her paper on "Citizens Initiatives" was accompanied by a slideshow presentation. Her presentation to the Assembly can be watched back here.

Please note the following error in the paper. Page four of Dr. Reidy's paper states: "In Switzerland, for constitutional proposals, there is a minimum participation threshold of 40 percent". It should be noted that this is a typographical error and it should read "In Venezuela, for constitutional proposals, there is a minimum participation threshold of 40 percent."

Sunday's Proceedings

The work programme for Sunday focused on reaching recommendations by ballot paper voting and comprised of several steps namely; agreeing on the issues to be included in a ballot; agreeing on the precise wording of the ballot or ballots; voting.

In advance, the Members received a note on the voting arrangements that would apply at the start of the weekend. On Sunday morning they received the draft Ballot Paper, and they also received the Chair's explanation of the draft Ballot Paper which is available to read here.

A copy of the final Ballot Paper the Members voted on is available here. A detailed breakdown of the results of the ballot, as announced by the Chair, is available here.

A full transcript of Sunday's proceedings can be read here


Over the course of the weekend the Members engaged in roundtable discussions, with the assistance of facilitators at each table. Further details on the facilitation process are available here.

Each table was provided with the same conversation starters for each session. 


A list of Members at the meeting on the manner in which referenda are held is available here