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16 October 2014
A State Apart

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Constitutional Issues
Constitutional Issues
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The Chief Electoral Officer announcing the result of the Irish referendum at Dublin Castle, 22 May 1998
The Irish referendum result is announced at Dublin Castle, 22 May 1998
The Irish government fulfilled its pledge under the Belfast Agreement and called a referendum to amend Articles 2 & 3 of its Constitution whose terroritorial claim over Northern Ireland had long been described by unionists as "illegal and repugnant". Article 2 was reworded replacing the definition of Irish national territory with one of the Irish nation that recognises the right of everyone born on the island of Ireland to be a member of that nation.
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The amendments, in effect, no longer regard unification as "a constitutional imperative" as determined by the Irish Supreme Court in the case McGimpsey v An Taoiseach (1990). During the referendum campaign, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said the proposed changes to Articles 2 & 3 would bring the immense psychological gain of "defining our nation in generous and inclusive 32-county terms by putting people before territory".  
Key Academic Opinions
The McGimpsey case
The Chief Electoral Officer announcing the result of the Northern Ireland referendum at the King's Hall, Belfast, 22 May 1998
The Northern Ireland referendum result is announced at the King's Hall, Belfast, 22 May 1998
The constitutional changes however, do not mean the Republic has abandoned its political belief in Irish unification. Indeed, the New Article 3 states it is "the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island".
Key Academic Opinions
Constitutional amendments
Why change
Constitutional bootstrapping
Constitutional background
The referenda north and south on 22 May 1998 ratified the Agreement and in the Republic it also affirmed the changes to the Constitution. These changes only became operative on 2 December 1999 when the Irish government was content that the other elements of the Good Friday Agreement were being implemented.  
Key Newspaper Articles
The task ahead
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