Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

The Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland permitted the state to ratify the Treaty of Nice. It was effected by the Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 2002, which was approved by referendum on 19 October 2002 (sometimes known as the Nice II referendum) and signed into law on 7 November of the same year. The amendment followed a previous failed attempt to approve the Nice Treaty which was rejected in the Nice I referendum held in 2001.

Changes to the text

The State may ratify the Treaty of Nice amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related Acts signed at Nice on the 26th day of February 2001.
The State may exercise the options or discretions provided by or under Articles 1.6, 1.9, 1.11, 1.12, 1.13 and 2.1 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7 of this section but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.
The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 1.2 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7 of this section where that common defence would include the State.


The Twenty-sixth Amendment was the second attempt of the Irish government to have the Treaty of Nice approved in a referendum. The purpose of the treaty was to amend the founding treaties of the European Union (EU). The previous attempt to approve the treaty was the Twenty-fourth Amendment Bill, which was rejected by voters in 2001. One of the arguments made against the Treaty of Nice in 2001 was that it might compromise the Republic's traditional neutrality. For this reason as well as permitting the state to ratify the Treaty of Nice, the Twenty-sixth Amendment added to the constitution a new provision, Article 29.4.9, guaranteeing that the state would not enter an EU mutual defence pact. The Twenty-sixth Amendment was introduced by the Fianna FáilProgressive Democrats coalition government of Bertie Ahern and was also supported by Fine Gael and the Labour Party (the two major opposition parties). However it was opposed by a number of other groups, including Sinn Féin, the Green Party and the Socialist Party. Voting in the referendum went 62.9% in favour and 37.1% against. The turnout was 49.5%, compared to the 34.8% turnout in the 2001 referendum

The Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution was one of a number of amendments that have been made to expressly permit the state to ratify changes to the founding treaties of the European Union (others have been the Tenth, Eleventh and Eighteenth Amendments). These amendments have all been adopted in response to the 1987 ruling of the Supreme Court, in the case of Crotty v. An Taoiseach, that major changes to the treaties are unconstitutional unless accompanied by an amendment. However it has been a matter of scholarly dispute as to whether or not every one of these treaties has been sufficiently far-reaching as to actually necessitate a constitutional amendment. The Treaty of Nice contained a number of optional discretionary provisions that member-states could activate at a later time after its adoption. The Twenty-sixth Amendment permitted the Republic to choose to exercise these options, provided its decision was approved by the Oireachtas (parliament).

While the changes shown above are those made to the English-language version of the constitution, constitutionally it is the Irish text that has precedence. The Twenty-sixth Amendment followed directly after the Twenty-third Amendment. This is because, for technical reasons, officially there are no Twenty-fourth or Twenty-fifth Amendments.


Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[1]
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 906,317 62.89
No 534,887 37.11
Valid votes 1,441,204 99.63
Invalid or blank votes 5,384 0.37
Total votes 1,446,588 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 2,923,918 49.47

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