The Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1997 amended the Constitution of Ireland to provide that the confidentiality of meetings of the cabinet would not prevent the High Court from ordering that certain information be disclosed when this was in the public interest. It was approved by referendum on 30 October 1997 and signed into law on 14 November of the same year.
Inserted a new subsection in Article 28.4:
3º The confidentiality of discussions at meetings of the Government shall be respected in all circumstances save only where the High Court determines that disclosure should be made in respect of a particular matter-
- i. in the interests of the administration of justice by a Court, or
- ii. by virtue of an overriding public interest, pursuant to an application in that behalf by a tribunal appointed by the Government or a Minister of the Government on the authority of the Houses of the Oireachtas to inquire into a matter stated by them to be of public importance.
The existing subsection 3º of Article 28.4 was renumbered as subsection 4º.
In 1992, during the Beef Tribunal, the Supreme Court ruled that, as the constitution stood, the confidentiality of meetings of the Government (the cabinet) was unbreachable and absolute. The court derived its ruling from Article 28.4.2º, which requires that the Government observe the principle of collective responsibility. The purpose of the Seventeenth Amendment was to allow cabinet confidentiality to be relaxed in certain circumstances.
The amendment was adopted during the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats coalition government led by Bertie Ahern but had been first drafted and suggested by the previous Fine Gael–Labour Party–Democratic Left government led by John Bruton. The amendment, therefore, had the support of all major parties. The referendum occurred on the same day as the 1997 presidential election.
|Invalid or blank votes||66,091||5.21|
|Registered voters and turnout||2,688,316||47.17|
|Constituency||Electorate||Turnout (%)||Votes||Proportion of votes|