Browse our most popular questions and answers on Ireland’s Referendums
· You must be an Irish citizen
· You must be at least 18 years old
· Your name must be on the Register of Electors
If you are an Irish citizen living abroad you cannot be entered on the Register of Electors. This means that you cannot vote in an election or referendum here in Ireland. The only exception to this is Irish diplomats and their spouses, who are on duty abroad and may cast their vote by post.
An Coimisiún Toghcháin is a statutory, independent body, established on 9 February 2023 with responsibility for a broad range of electoral functions set out in the Electoral Reform Act 2022. An Coimisiún is central to Ireland’s electoral system, carrying out a range of existing electoral functions.
In relation to Ireland’s Referendums, since February 2023 we have taken over the functions of the Referendum Commission.
This means we have the job to:
a) prepare a statement or statements containing a general explanation of the subject matter of the proposal for the referendum concerned
b) publish (in both the Irish and English languages) and distribute statements as appropriate across TV, radio, and other electronic media for the attention of the electorate and to ensure as far as practicable that those with a sight or hearing disability can read or hear the statements concerned;
c) to promote public awareness of the referendum and encourage the public to vote at the referendum
The Commission does not advocate or promote a particular result at a referendum and it’s not our role to outline the arguments for and against referendum proposals.
The Commission may however at our discretion clarify and provide appropriate information about areas we consider to be of significant public concern and importance.
The Commission is made up of 7 members. The chairperson is Supreme Court Justice Marie Baker, who was nominated by the Chief Justice.
There are four ordinary members of the Commission who were appointed following an open competition run by the Public Appointments Service. They are:
Professor Caroline Fennell
There are also two ex-officio members:
Ger Deering, Ombudsman.
Peter Finnegan, Clerk of the Dáil.
They are supported in their work by an Executive which is headed by CEO Art O’Leary.
An Coimisiún Toghcháin, the Electoral Commission is an independent public body so we are not under any Government Department or Minister. We are publicly funded through our own independent Vote (Vote 23) and are directly accountable to the Oireachtas with our CEO as our Accounting Officer.
Every time there’s a referendum the question comes up – is ‘referendums’ or ‘referenda’ the plural for referendum?
Either form of the plural is acceptable according to The New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (2014).
As the Electoral Commission we prefer to use ‘referendums’ as per the Cambridge English Dictionary entry, which says:
Referendum – noun plural referendums or formal referenda UK/ˌref.əˈren.də/ US/ˌref.əˈren.də/ (formal plebiscite) – a vote in which all the people in a country or an area are asked to give their opinion about or decide an important political or social question.
An approved body may have representatives present when postal ballot papers are being sent out and opened, at polling stations and at the counting of the vote. Applications to become an approved body must be sent to the Electoral Commission.
Applicants must have:
· at least 300 members
· an interest in the referendum
· and a name that does not closely resemble the name of a political party registered in the Register of Political Parties
An Coimisiún Toghcháin will advertise in the national media and on our own website and social media when it is time for those interested in becoming approved bodies for the upcoming referendum to come forward and apply in writing ahead of a specific deadline.
The Electoral Commission has no role in relation to posters erected during a referendum.
There are rules governing posters and leaflets, and other forms of advertising during an election campaign. Local authorities have powers to remove posters where it is in the public interest to do so.
Yes – we have a role, soon after the completion our referendum functions, and no later than 6 months after, to prepare and submit our written report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the referendum.