The progress of the Irish Constitutional Convention to date

ccvenDeclaration of interest: The author is the research director of the Irish Constitutional Convention

The Irish Constitutional Convention has almost completed its work.  At its most recent meeting it dealt with the last of the eight topics assigned to it by the Government. All that remains is for the Convention to use its remaining time to consider ‘Any other Amendments’ — the focus of its final meetings early in the New Year.

On its establishment, the Convention was roundly criticised, with much of the criticism focused on the limited (and admitedly pretty eclectic) range of topics that it was given to consider.  Over the course of its deliberations minds have changed and many who were critical of it are less so today (see here for an example).

This post updates on an earlier analysis (see here) of the progress of the Convention to date.

The table below provides a full summary.  The first thing to note is just how far the Convention members have gone in extending the remit of the Convention far beyond the eight topics assigned to it.  To date a full 24 recommendations have been put forward, of which at least 12 (marked by an *) would require a referendum if the government consents to the recommendation.  The second thing to note is the relatively positive response from government to far.  Based on today’s news (see here), we now know that three referendums will be called in the lifetime of this government (on voting age, the age of presidential candidates, and same-sex marriage), and there may yet be more to follow.

By any measure, all this amounts to significant progress.

Topics

Recommendations of the Constitutional Convention

Current state of play

1. Reduction of the Presidential term of office to five years and the alignment with local and European elections
  1. No change to length of the Presidential term of office
  2. *Reduce the age of candidacy for Presidential candidates
  3. *Give citizens a say in the nomination process for presidential candidates
Government has committed to holding a referendum on 2 & to refer 3 to Oireachtas cttee for consideration
2. Reduction of the voting age to 17
  1. *Voting age should be reduced to 16
Government has committed to holding a referendum on this
3. Clause on the role of women in the home & encouraging greater participation of women in public life
  1. *Article 41.2 (on the role of women) should be made gender-neutral to include other carers both ‘in the home’ and ‘beyond the home’
  2. Re a.41.2.2 (the state’s support for carers) the state should provide ‘a reasonable level of support’
Minister for Justice has established task forces to investigate further with a response to govt by Oct 2014
4. Increasing the participation of women in politics
  1. *The Constitution should be amended to include an explicit provision on gender equality
  2. Apart from constitutional reform, there should be more government action to encourage greater participation of women in politics
  3. *The Constitution should be amended to include ‘gender-inclusive’ language
Minister for Justice has established task forces to investigate further with a response to govt by Oct 2014
5. Provisions for same-sex marriage
  1. *The Constitution should be amended to allow for same-sex marriage (and this amendment should ‘directive’)
  2. If the amendment is carried then the state should enact laws incorporating necessary changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and upbringing of children
Government has committed to holding a referendum on 1
6. Review of the Dáil electoral system
  1. The existing (STV) electoral system should be amended to ensure that the smallest constituency size is a 5-seater and to remove the alphabetical order of candidates on the ballot paper
  2. The state should establish an Electoral Commission
  3. Polling hours/days in should be extended
  4. There should be greater access to postal voting
  5. Accuracy of the electoral register should be improved
  6. Measures should be introduced to increase electoral turnout
  7. Education programmes should be introduced in schools
  8. *There should be non-parliamentary ministers in government
  9. *Members of the Dail should be required to resign their seats on being appointed to ministerial office
  10. *Citizen-initiatives should be introduced (both for influencing the parliamentary agenda and for the calling of referendums)
Report was lodged with the Oireachtas in August 2013, to be debated in the autumn
7. Irish citizens’ right to vote at Irish Embassies in Presidential elections
  1. *Rights for citizens abroad and citizens in Northern Ireland to vote in presidential elections
Report being finalized
8. Removal of the offence of Blasphemy from the Constitution
  1. *The offence of blasphemy should be replaced by a new general provision to include incitement to religious hatred
  2. Sec.36 of the defamation act should be replaced by detailed legislative provisions to include religious hatred
Report being drafted
9. ‘Any other amendments’ To be discussed in the New Year
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One thought on “The progress of the Irish Constitutional Convention to date

  1. Despite looking impressive, there are only two items in this long list of recommendations that a properly functioning parliament would not raise, consider and decide upon. But these two are extremely important. The first, lesser one, is the proposal to have a minimum of five seats in each constituency. But the second one, the proposal that ministers upon appointment should resign their seats, would initiate the badly required separation of the executive and the legislature. It would have a profound psychological impact. Ministers and their officials would be guests in the House and the House and the government would have to agree the arrangements for their appearances. This is at it should be. It might also require that each candidate for election present him or herself with an alternate who would take his or her seat should he or she be appointed to government office, resign or die.

    All of this is so very necessary that we can be sure that this proposal will be dismissed out of hand by the Government.

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