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Minister Kelly announces Government Agreement on the Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015

Published on Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015

Minister Kelly announces Government Agreement on the Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015

21/01/15

Mr Alan Kelly, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, announced today (21 January 2015) that the Government has approved the text of the Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015.

The Bill will be presented to the Dáil in the coming days in accordance with Article 46 of the Constitution. The Bill provides for the amendment of Article 12.4.1° of the Constitution to reduce the age at which a citizen becomes eligible for election to the office of President from 35 years (the present position) to 21 years. The Bill follows on from the Government’s acceptance of the recommendation in the First Report of the Convention on the Constitution that the age of eligibility for election to the office of President be reduced.

“This Bill is another in a long list of constitutional and electoral reforms since this Government took office”, the Minister said. “ For example, we have seen significant changes over this period in the areas of political funding, gender balance for the next general election and time lines for the holding of Dáil bye-elections”, the Minister added.

The Bill will be put to the electorate in a referendum in May 2015 at the same time as the referendum on Marriage Equality. The Minister indicated that when the Bill is initiated in the Dáil, he will make an order establishing a Referendum Commission. The role of the Commission is to prepare, publish and distribute to the electorate a statement containing a general explanation of the subject matter of the referendum, to promote awareness of the referendum and encourage the electorate to vote.

“I would take this opportunity to encourage everyone entitled to vote in these referendums to participate fully in our democracy by ensuring that they are registered to vote and to go to the polls in May”, the Minister said.

ENDS

Note for editors on political and reform measures since March 2011

Since March 2011 the Oireachtas has enacted eight electoral amendment acts to provide for reform of the electoral and political system. This legislation was brought forward by the Government in response to commitments in the Programme for Government and in response also to recommendations in reports of the Moriarty and Mahon tribunals. Political funding • Restriction of corporate donations: With effect from 1 January 2013 corporate donations over €200 are banned unless the donors register first with the Standards in Public Office Commission and get the approval of their shareholders or members to make the donation. All corporate donations over €200 must be reported in the annual report or statutory returns of the donors. • Reduction in the limits and improved transparency for political donations: The maximum donation that can be accepted by a political party has been reduced from €6,348 to €2,500.  The maximum that can be accepted by an individual candidate or politician has been reduced from €2,539 to €1,000.  The threshold for the public declaration of donations received by political parties has been reduced by more than 70% from €5,078 to €1,500 and the new donations declaration threshold for individuals is €600. In addition more information must be provided to the Standards in Public Office Commission about donors and their identity.   • All cash donations over €200 are banned. • The threshold for the receipt of anonymous donations is reduced to €100: All anonymous donations greater than €100 are now banned. • Reduction in Presidential Election spending limits:  From €1.3 million to €750,000. • Political Parties book-keeping will be more transparent: The accounts of political parties will all be audited, submitted to the Standards in Public Office Commission and then published on the internet.  The income and expenditure of parties will be opened up for all to see.

Electoral Reform • Number of TDs will be cut by 8: The recommendations of the Constituency Commission, established in July 2011, were implemented in the Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Act 2013. The number of TDs to be elected at the next general election will be 158. This is a reduction of 8 on the present total of 166 and is in keeping with the Programme for Government commitment to reduce the number of TDs following the 2011 census of population. There will be 40 constituencies, of which 11 will be 5-seat, 16 will be 4-seat and 13 will be 3-seat. • Timelines have been set for the holding of bye-elections: the law has been changed to ensure, if a bye-election to fill a vacancy in the Dáil is not held within six months of the vacancy arising, that arrangements must be made for the bye-election to be held as soon as practicable. • Measures to increase participation by women in political parties:   following the next general election political parties will face a cut of half their State funding if they do not have at least 30% women and 30% men candidates at the election.  This will rise to 40% after a further seven years.  • Revision of local election boundaries: the Minister accepted in full the recommendations in the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee Report 2013.  The new local electoral areas and the new numbers of members to be elected in them were specified in 30 Orders made by the Minister in January 2014 following enactment of the Local Government Reform Act 2014. The revisions reflect changes and shifts in population in recent years and significantly improve the representational imbalances that exist in local government across the country. • Fairer balance of representation between constituencies for the election of MEPs.  The European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Act 2014 specified the constituencies for the election of 11 MEPs for the 2014-2019 parliamentary term. The new arrangement achieved very low variances in each constituency from national average population per MEP and the Dublin constituency representation is now closely aligned with the other constituencies in the State. • Bankruptcy disqualification removed: the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2014 removed the disqualification of bankruptcy for election to and membership of the Dáil and the European Parliament. 

Further electoral reform: the government legislation programme includes the Seanad Electoral (University Members) (Amendment) Bill, an Electoral Commission Bill and an Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

 

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