The EU’s Democratic Deficit and Repeated Referendums in Ireland

  • Connor T. JerzakEmail author


This analysis tackles the question of whether the democratic deficit in the European Union is associated with repeated referendums—giving voters a second chance to vote “yes” for EU treaties. Looking at repeated referendums in Ireland on the Nice and Lisbon treaties, I argue that, broadly speaking, these referendums failed to give Irish voters the meaningful ability to contest the direction of EU policy or to choose among alternative policy options, an example of how the democratic deficit can endure even when the EU incorporates electoral mechanisms. I first discuss how this theoretical insight is evidenced by five aspects of the Irish referendums. Then, I examine three of these aspects more closely in case studies of the Nice and Lisbon referendums, focusing on how leaders (1) conceptualized the failure of the initial referendums as deriving from voter incomprehension, (2) planned repeated referendums in an additional effort to ratify the treaties, and (3) mobilized “yes” voters through extreme predictions about the consequences of second “no” outcomes. I conclude by discussing socio-economic trends seen from 2003 to 2014 and their implications for issues related to the EU’s democratic deficit.


European Union Direct democracy Referendums European politics Irish politics 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryOberlin CollegeOberlinUSA

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