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The Irish Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann)

Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Irish Constitution) is a legal document which sets out the system of Government in Ireland. It outlines the fundamental laws and the fundamental rights we have as Irish Citizens.

It sets out the roles of the main institutions of the state.

The Irish Constitution recognises and declares that you have certain fundamental personal rights. These are confirmed and protected by the Constitution.

The Constitution can be changed if the majority of Irish Citizens vote to do so in a referendum.

The Irish Constitution (or Bunreacht na hÉireann) was ratified (approved) by the Irish people in 1937.

Each part of the Constitution is set out in both the Irish and English languages. 

The Constitution establishes the branches of government, it establishes the courts and sets out how those institutions should be run.

The Constitution is also part of a wider human rights framework in Ireland. This refers to all legal and other human rights commitments made by Ireland, including treaties under the United Nations, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The Constitution and Separation of Powers

Power in Ireland is divided between the legislature (the Oireachtas), the executive (the Government) and the judiciary. The role of each of these groups is set out clearly in the Constitution of Ireland.

Each of the three branches (groups) have certain powers which allow it to keep each of the other groups in check. This means that no one group can ever become too powerful or gain total control.

Legislative Power is the power to make laws. Articles 15 – 27 of the constitution gives these powers to the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas consists of Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and the President.

Executive Power is the power to carry laws into effect – that means it has the power to carry out laws with the assistance of An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces and the Civil Service. Article 28 gives this power to the Government (Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Cabinet Ministers)

Judicial power is the power to interpret and apply the law to disputes and conflicts which happen between the State and individual citizens, as well as disputes which happen between citizens.