How to Lose a Referendum (in Ireland)

In March 2024, two referendums put to the Irish people, proposing constitutional changes related to families and the value of care, failed by spectacular margins. These failures—not expected in the run up to the campaigns—mark the end of more than a decade of lauded referendum successes in Ireland, which included votes to legalise same-sex marriage and abortion and the pioneering use of citizens' assemblies. Ireland had been one of the few positive case studies of constitutional change referendums, but has this now changed?

In this hybrid seminar, hosted by the UNSW Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, Professor David Kenny explores the reasons for the failure of these proposals and invites discussion of what it might say more broadly about the difficulties of constitutional change referendums in Ireland, Australia, and beyond.

Speaker Biography:

Professor David Kenny is a Professor in Law and Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, specialising in Irish and comparative constitutional law and law and literature. He has published widely on topics such as constitutional culture and constitutional change referendums. He currently serves as a member of the Research Advisory Group to Ireland's newly-formed Electoral Commission. His next book—Pragmatism, Law, and Literature—will be published with Routledge in August 2024.

The seminar will be held at the UNSW Faculty of Law & Justice (Level Two Boardroom) and online via Teams. Lunch will be served to those attending in person.