Striking a better balance between democracy and regulation

Theresa Reidy and myself had a piece in the Irish Times earlier this week on the need to think about change for referendum rules. Many of the comments on The Irish Times site were from no voters in the Children’s Referendum who appeared to think that we would seek to ensure that their voices are not heard. However, in fact what we argue is that if we are to utilise the tools of direct democracy such as referendums then we should seek to maximise the democratic outputs. Referendums with low turnouts and large sections of the population not understanding the issue at hand are not enhancing of our democracy. Thus we need to look at new models.

Recent polls point towards Fianna Fail recovery (October/Early November 2012)

Adrian Kavanagh, 18th October 2012 – updates on 19th November 2012 

A number of recent opinion polls all point towards gains in Fianna Fail support levels, albeit to varying degrees, leaving Fianna Fail at its highest support level in opinion polls since the IMF-EU bailout in November 2010 and positioned as the second most popular party in the state after Fine Gael.  The Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, and relative to the most recent Ipsos-MRBI poll in April 2012, as follows: Fine Gael 31% (down 1%), Labour 12% (up 2%), Fianna Fail 21% (up 4%), Sinn Fein 20% (down 4%), Green Party 2% (NC), Independents and Others 14% (down 1%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 63, Labour 17, Fianna Fail 37, Sinn Fein 25, Green Party 0, Independents and Others 16. The Sunday Business Post-Red C poll (28th October) puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, and relative to the most recent such poll on 24th September 2012, as follows: Fine Gael 34% (up 2%),  Labour 13% (down 1%), Fianna Fail 19% (up 1%), Sinn Fein 17% (down 1%), Green Party 2% (NC), United Left Alliance, Independents and Others 15% (NC).  My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 72, Labour 19, Fianna Fail 33, Sinn Fein 17, Green Party 0, United Left Alliance 3, Independents and Others 16. The Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll of 18th November 2012 puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, and relative to the most recent such poll on 9th September 2012, as follows: Fine Gael 30% (down 1%),  Labour 12% (down 2%), Fianna Fail 22% (up 6%), Sinn Fein 14% (down 4%), Green Party 3% (up 1%), United Left Alliance, Independents and Others 19% (NC). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 62, Labour 17, Fianna Fail 38, Sinn Fein 19, Green Party 2, United Left Alliance 4, Independents and Others 16.

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Swiss style direct democracy?

Regular contributor Donal has asked us to link to his case for Swiss-style citizens initiative and direct democracy, which the Human Rights in Ireland website* has just published as part of the series Shadow Constitutional Convention,
He argues that there may be change in the criteria of decision-making at the top; change in social habits at the bottom. But unless these two are bridged by the mutual education of the democratic process, communication between the top and the bottom may cease. In Ireland, where the stimulus to change is external, something like this may in fact be happening

Deliberation in practice: the use of mini-publics in contemporary democracies

Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street
November 2 2012
1.15-5.30pm

An event organised by We the Citizens, in cooperation with the Royal Irish Academy and the G1000 (Belgium)

This event is designed to coincide with the establishment of the Irish government’s constitutional convention. This is the first time an Irish government has involved ordinary citizens in discussions about constitutional reform. Mini-publics may be a relatively new phenomenon to Ireland, but their use is quite widespread in a number of other countries, such as the Icelandic constitutional council, the British Columbia citizens’ assembly, the Dutch citizens’ forum, or the Belgian G1000 citizen summit. This event aims at reviewing these and other examples of deliberation in practice.

The participants include some of the world’s leading experts in the field:

  • Ken Carty (University of British Columbia) – the academic director of the British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly (Canada)
  • Henk van der Kolk (University of Twente) – the academic director of the Dutch Bürgerforum
  • Erikur Bergmann (Bifrost University) – former member of the Icelandic Constitutional Council
  • Didier Caluwaerts (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgique), Min Reuchamps (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgique), Peter Vermeersch (University of Leuven) – members of the academic team of the G1000 citizen summit (Belgium)
  • David Farrell (UCD), Eoin O’Malley (DCU) and Jane Suiter (DCU) – members of the academic team of We the Citizens (Ireland)
  • Other academics specializing in the study of deliberation, including: André Bächtiger (Universität Luzern), Gemma Carney (NUIG), Patrick Fournier (University of Montreal), Clodagh Harris (UCC), Kaisa Herne (Turku University), Gerry Stoker (Southampton University)

To register, please contact Claudia Saba claudia.saba@ucdconnect.ie

For more information, David Farrell David.Farrell@ucd.ie