Referendums aren’t for the faint hearted

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The marriage referendum was an emotional roller-coaster. The reports of thousands taking boats and flights home to vote in the marriage referendum were heart-lifting. Ursula Halligan’s revelation in the last week of the marriage referendum campaign that she had hidden her sexuality from everyone, including at times herself was heart-breaking. She cited the referendum campaign as the reason she finally found the bravery to come out. We can only assume that she was relieved at the response and delighted at the result of the referendum. The referendum gave popular approval to a group that had felt isolated and afraid. Few who witnessed it will forget the happy, open and emotional atmosphere in Ireland on the weekend of the result.

But there’s a reason why Ireland is the first country in the world to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Continue reading

Irish equal marriage: it’s deliberation “wot won it”

Originally posted on John Parkinson: The Boggler Blog:

000aa181-942It’s a glorious morning for democrats and equal rights campaigners everywhere:  the Irish have voted nearly 2 to 1 to allow equal marriage rights regardless of sex.

However, this is a big day for deliberative democrats too, because in all the coverage about the referendum, what keeps getting forgotten is that this all started with a big, deliberative, citizens’ assembly: the Irish Constitutional Convention of January 2013.

The Constitutional Convention assembled 66 randomly selected citizens and 33 parliamentarians, including representatives of Northern Irish parties, to consider a range of issues put to them by the Houses of the Oireachtas including the electoral system, the voting age, the role of the president, participation of women in politics and public life more generally, removal of the offence of blasphemy, and equal marriage rights. The Convention refused to be tied to that brief, and made further recommendations about the presidency and the voting…

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A tale of two referendums

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On Friday the Irish will vote on two issues. Both are being sold as reforms, one a social reform, the other a political reform. Both can be said to have come from the the ‘People’ via the Constitutional Convention. If polls are even broadly accurate one will pass comfortably, the other will be easily defeated.

Why will the marriage referendum pass and the proposal to lower the age of eligibility for election to the office of the President be defeated? The major difference is the genesis of the proposals. The marriage referendum is a result of years of campaigning Continue reading

Is Miliband inadvertently helping Scottish independence?

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There are now so many red lines laid down during the UK general election that forming a coalition is going to resemble a scene from Mission Impossible. SNP won’t support the Tories, UKIP won’t support Labour, Sinn Féin won’t support (or oppose) anyone,… Most of this is just electioneering. Even the one party that’s keeping options reasonably open – the LibDems – is giving mixed messages probably in the hope it can save a few seats by appealing to Tory or Labour supporters that a vote for them in key marginals could help keep Labour or the Tories out of power.

Labour on the other hand has firmly ruled out ANY deal with the SNP. Again this is electioneering. It’s simultaneously hoping that it can convince Scottish voters that a vote for Labour is the only way to ditch the Tories, and English voters that a vote for Labour won’t damage the Union.  Continue reading

The Coming Storm: what will Election 2016 bring us?

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At most a year out from the general election, we are beginning to see some shape to what could be the most formative election in recent memory. The 2011 election was called an ‘earthquake election’ by some political scientists because on many metrics we saw remarkable changes, it was one of the most volatile elections in post-war Europe. But it was as remarkable that such a volatile election produced such a familiar government. The Irish did what they were used to doing, kicking out a long-lasting Fianna Fáil government replacing it with a Fine Gael-Labour coalition. Continue reading

Voice or Vote? The Central Access Scheme controversy

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Post by Vanessa Liston

The controversy over the Central Access Scheme (CAS) in Kilkenny city has raised some important issues about local democracy in Ireland. One of these concerns the link between elected representatives and citizens. On the one hand those who, for different reasons oppose the scheme, claim that democracy is dead. Councilors do not represent the voices of all the people and so the system has failed. On the other hand, supporters of the scheme state that a vote on the matter in Council has been carried on numerous occasions and passed with a significant majority. Therefore the voice of the people has been heard. Continue reading