Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Constitution of Ireland, was enacted in 1937 and can only be amended by way of a referendum. It does not make specific reference to culture. Amongst many recommendations made in 2017 by the Oireachtas’ (the legislature of Ireland) joint committee on arts and heritage was that the government should initiate a referendum to insert a specific reference to arts, culture and heritage in the constitution. Following from this insertion, the committee also called for legislation to vindicate the cultural rights of Irish citizens to cultural expression and cultural access.
The following articles of the Constitution relate to culture and cultural rights:
- Right to participate: Article 2 states the entitlement to be “part of the Irish Nation” to all those born on the island of Ireland. Article 3 states the will of “the Irish Nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions.”
- The Irish Language: Article 8 states that the Irish Language is the first official language with the English language recognised as the second language of the State.
- Cultural Representation in the Senate: Under Article 7 candidates for Seanad Éireann/the Irish Constitution are elected from panels of candidates with experience from 5 areas. The first of these panel area is “National Language and Culture, Literature, Art, Education…”
- Freedom of Expression: Article 40 asserts the fundamental personal rights of the citizen. Under Article 40 6 1° the State guarantees liberty for the exercise of the following rights, subject to public order and morality: i) The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions; ii) The right of the citizens to assemble peaceably and without arms; iii) The right of the citizens to form associations and unions.
- Religious Freedoms: Article 44 refers to religious rights. Under sub section 2 1° Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.