Referendums are used nationally, regionally and locally to give electors a chance to express a view on important matters.
The first national referendum was held in 1975 on the question of whether or not the country should remain in the European Community.
The rules governing national and regional referendums are set out in the Political Parties, Elections & Referendums Act, 2000. Referendums are run on similar grounds to elections, except that electors do not vote for a candidate but answer a specific question set out on a ballot paper. For national referendums the Electoral Commission usually carries out consultations with interested parties in the wording of questions. Permitted participants e.g. campaigning parties must make declarations to the Electoral Commission. Designated campaigning organisations can incur expenses up to prescribed Limits.
Local Government referendums on issues such as whether a Council should have an elected mayor are run on similar grounds but with a much lower limit in referendum expenses.
Upcoming referendums - Thursday 20 October 2016:
For further information about the neighbourhood plans subject to referendum: