Irish constitutional referendum, 1937

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Plebiscite on the Constitution of Ireland
Do you approve of the Draft Constitution which is the subject of this plebiscite?
Results
Votes  %
Yes check.svg Yes 685,105 56.52%
X mark.svg No 526,945 43.48%
Valid votes 1,212,050 90.03%
Invalid or blank votes 134,157 9.97%
Total votes 1,346,207 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 1,775,055 75.84%
Results by county
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  Yes
  No
Constituency results from the referendum

The Constitution of Ireland plebiscite, also known as the Plebiscite on the Draft Constitution,[1] was a plebiscite held in the Irish Free State to approve the adoption of a new constitution for the country.[2] The vote was held on 1 July 1937, the same day as the 1937 general election. It was passed by a plurality, with 56% of voters in favour, comprising 38.6% of the whole electorate. As a result, the current Constitution of Ireland came into effect on 29 December 1937, ending the Irish Free State.[3] It was the only plebiscite to take place in the Irish Free State.[4] Moreover, it was the only plebiscite that has ever been held in the country although there have been many referendums since then.

Background

The desire to replace the Constitution of the Irish Free State was motivated largely by the association of the existing constitution with the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and a belief that it had been imposed upon Ireland by the government of the United Kingdom. The main opponents of the Treaty had been elected to power as Fianna Fáil under Éamon de Valera in 1932, and a commitment was made to replace the constitution of the Free State.[5] So closely tied to the policies of Fianna Fáil was the proposed new constitution that the 1937 referendum has been described as a vote of confidence in the republican government.[6] After a new constitution was drafted by John Hearne, supervised by de Valera, the draft was accepted by the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas passed the Plebiscite (Draft Constitution) Act 1937, which allowed for a plebiscite to be held so that the people of Ireland could either accept or reject the new constitution.[7]

Supporters of replacing the Irish Free State Constitution were largely sympathetic to the Fianna Fáil party, or republicans who believed in removing the remaining constitutional and legal links to the British state. Opponents of the new constitution included a coalition of supporters of Fine Gael and the Labour Party,[8] and unionists who were concerned about permanently losing the last vestiges of Britain's influence on the institutions of Irish government. The National University Women Graduates' Association opposed the new constitution on the basis that it could undermine women's rights and privacy in the home.[9]

The vote

Voting took place on 1 July 1937, on the same day as the 1937 Irish general election.[10] Voter turnout was 75.84%

The question put to the electorate was, "Do you approve of the Draft Constitution which is the subject of this plebiscite?"

Result

The result of the plebiscite was a clear vote in support of the adoption of the new constitution.[11] Over 56% of voters were in favour. With the turnout, this did not represent a majority of the electorate, but a clear enough plurality for the draft constitution to be deemed to have been approved by the people.[12] The number of invalid or blank votes was high, at almost 10% of the total votes cast.

The 'yes' vote won a majority in all but five constituencies, representing a solid level of support across Ireland. Geographically, the 'no' vote was strongest in the east coast constituencies of Dublin County, Wicklow, and in Cork West. The draft constitution had least support in Dublin Townships, and gained most support in Galway West, where three quarters of voters backed the proposal.[13] The plebiscite vote was heavily influenced by party political loyalties.[14] Fianna Fáil voters overwhelmingly voted 'yes', while Fine Gael voters and Protestants largely voted 'no'. The bulk of Labour voters supported the new constitution, despite the opposition of the party leadership.[15]

Constituency results

Constituency Electorate Votes Turnout Yes No Spoilt Percent Yes
Cork City 53,019 38,850 73.3 20,765 15,392 2,693 57.4
Dublin North-East 50,323 36,579 72.7 18,651 16,496 1,432 53.1
Dublin North-West 69,174 47,638 68.9 26,095 19,210 2,333 57.6
Dublin South 82,659 57,560 69.6 32,669 21,504 3,387 60.3
Dublin Townships 52,664 37,690 71.6 14,810 21,336 1,544 41
Athlone–Longford 38,295 29,849 77.9 15,648 11,367 2,834 57.9
Carlow–Kildare 48,536 36,793 75.8 18,745 14,407 3,641 56.5
Cavan 47,008 37,824 80.5 17,412 16,508 3,904 51.3
Clare 62,551 49,731 79.5 29,279 16,454 3,998 64
Cork North 47,822 39,372 82.3 17,458 16,350 5,564 51.6
Cork South-East 41,669 32,061 76.9 13,764 12,733 5,564 51.9
Cork West 67,017 53,866 80.4 19,741 24,668 9,457 44.5
Donegal East 48,975 36,908 75.4 18,680 13,041 5,187 58.9
Donegal West 38,532 27,639 71.7 14,160 11,086 2,393 56.1
Dublin County 83,457 58,855 70.5 26,901 28,840 3,114 48.3
Galway East 49,476 34,642 70.0 21,273 10,049 3,320 67.9
Galway West 42,796 26,141 61.1 17,836 6,234 2,071 74.1
Kerry North 48,621 35,533 73.1 21,292 10,857 3,384 66.2
Kerry South 35,390 26,325 74.4 13,658 9,573 3,094 58.8
Kilkenny 40,900 33,589 82.1 16,926 13,746 2,917 55.2
Leitrim 36,368 27,551 75.8 12,583 8,429 6,539 59.9
Leix–Offaly 60,945 48,344 79.3 25,654 17,717 4,973 59.2
Limerick 81,397 66,078 81.2 35,187 21,954 8,937 61.6
Louth 38,570 30,311 78.6 16,326 11,688 2,297 58.3
Mayo North 38,170 25,934 67.9 15,900 8,247 1,787 65.8
Mayo South 59,999 42,205 70.3 22,225 15,734 4,246 58.6
Meath–Westmeath 61,654 49,094 79.6 27,586 18,704 2,804 59.6
Monaghan 36,469 31,511 86.4 16,189 12,107 3,215 57.2
Roscommon 42,103 32,170 76.4 15,481 12,910 3,779 54.5
Sligo 36,516 28,475 78.0 10,780 11,916 5,779 47.5
Tipperary 82,727 67,656 81.8 34,776 28,041 4,839 55.4
Waterford 51,596 41,192 79.8 22,118 16,578 2,496 57.2
Wexford 61,486 48,366 78.7 23,129 20,391 4,846 53.1
Wicklow 38,171 29,875 78.3 11,408 12,678 5,789 47.4

References

  1. Government of the Republic of Ireland publication (2013), Referendum Results, 1937 - 2013, p.16 http://www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/Voting/Referenda/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,1894,en.pdf
  2. L. Prakke, C. A. J. M. Kortmann, Constitutional Law of 15 EU Member States, 'Ireland - The Constitution of 1937' (Kluwer, 1 Jan 2004), 427.
  3. "Constitution of Ireland Bunreacht Na hÉireann". The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Richard Sinnott, Irish Voters Decide: Voting Behaviour in Elections and Referendums Since 1918 (Manchester University Press, 1995), 13.
  5. Jessie Blackbourn, Anti-Terrorism Law and Normalising Northern Ireland (Routledge, 7 Aug 2014), 16.
  6. Markku Suksi, Bringing in the People: A Comparison of Constitutional Forms and Practices of the Referendum (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1993), 190.
  7. L. Prakke, C. A. J. M. Kortmann, Constitutional Law of 15 EU Member States, 'Ireland - The Constitution of 1937' (Kluwer, 1 Jan 2004), 427.
  8. Fine Gael, ‘Say No to the Constitution’ advertisement (1937)
  9. National University Women Graduates' Association, 'Vote Against the Constitution' advertisement (1937)
  10. Government of the Republic of Ireland publication (2013), Referendum Results, 1937 - 2013, p.16 http://www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/Voting/Referenda/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,1894,en.pdf
  11. L. Prakke, C. A. J. M. Kortmann, Constitutional Law of 15 EU Member States, 'Ireland - The Constitution of 1937' (Kluwer, 1 Jan 2004), 427.
  12. Government of the Republic of Ireland publication (2013), Referendum Results, 1937 - 2013, p.17 http://www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/Voting/Referenda/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,1894,en.pdf
  13. Government of the Republic of Ireland publication (2013), Referendum Results, 1937 - 2013, p.17 http://www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/Voting/Referenda/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,1894,en.pdf
  14. Joseph Lee, Ireland, 1912-1985: Politics and Society (Cambridge University Press, 1989), 210.
  15. Michael Forde, David Leonard, Constitutional Law of Ireland (A&C Black, 30 Jun 2013), 11.

See also