Referendum Commission clarifies question of whether referendum can be postponed
May 15th 2012: The Referendum Commission wishes to clarify the legal situation in relation to the question of whether or not the forthcoming referendum on the Fiscal Stability treaty could be postponed. There have been a number of calls for a postponement of the referendum and the Commission has received a number of queries on this point.
The law on the conduct of referendums is set out in the Referendum Act 1994. This provides that, when a Bill containing a proposal for the amendment of the Constitution has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government shall make an order setting the date on which the referendum is to take place.
Once that order is made, the only circumstance in which it may be changed, according to the Referendum Act 1994, is if a general election is called. If a general election is called, the Minister may change the referendum date to the date of the proposed general election.
There are no other circumstances under the Referendum Act 1994 in which the Minister has the power to postpone a referendum nor has the Minister the power to simply rescind the order to hold a referendum.
In this case, the Bill, the Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) Bill 2012, has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas and the referendum order has been made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.
In the interests of ensuring public certainty about the date of the poll and in the interests of ensuring a robust public debate on the issues the Commission wishes to clarify this point