Lessons from Children’s Referendum

It is still far too early to be definitive in the analysis of the result of the Children’s Referendum obviously research is needed in order to ascertain why turnout was so low and why people voted in the way that they did.

What we can say is that Saturday voting is unlikely to be the main cause of a low turnout as it serves to increase turnout in many other jurisdictions.

However in some way the 60 40 split could be seen to fit into the pattern of previous referendums as can be seen in the slides in this presentation that we delivered to the PSAI conference in Derry in October.

We also know that there is a strong and logical tendency to vote ‘no’ if you don’t know. And we know that there was a fairly low level of understanding for this referendum at least so far as it was measured by pre referendum polls.

There is a need particularly with large numbers of referendums in prospect over the coming years to seriously reexamine the framework in which we conduct these polls, If we are to properly derive real democratic benefits from referendums we need to ensure that people are as informed as possible. We should thus examine how to best resource both sides to make their arguments and have them heard. But with that right there must be an obligation to ensure that all arguments are factual and this could perhaps be policed by the Referendum Commission.


Theresa Reidy and Jane Suiter

Garret FitzGerald – Friend of the PSAI

Posted by Gary Murphy – President, Political Studies Association of Ireland.

Garret FitzGerald who passed away on Thursday 19th May was a valued friend of the Political Studies Association of Ireland. He regularly participated at our conferences and events and attended many book launches supported by the association. Much has been written and spoken since his passing about his myriad existences as airline scheduler, economist, academic, politician, newspaper columnist, Europhile and public citizen. Less noted, however, was the fact that he was also a great supporter of the PSAI. The PSAI was founded in 1982 in the midst of the extraordinary electoral battles between Garret FitzGerald and Charles Haughey which then dominated Irish politics. It was established with the purpose of promoting the study of politics both in and ofIreland and Garret FitzGerald paid us the honour of showing up to our conferences to do just that by discussing numerous papers, some of which were even about himself! In doing so he made live the study of Irish politics.

He was generous with his time to numerous members of our association and profession who interviewed him about his life, policies and the tumultuous times he both lived in and helped to shape. He also left valuable and lengthy memoirs and recollections behind him and helped persuade many other politicians to do likewise. These records have been of enormous benefit to scholars of contemporaryIreland. I last met Garret FitzGerald on the Sunday after the recent general election in an RTE radio studio at which Michael Gallagher of TCD was also present. As we were finishing up our stint discussing the extraordinary general election result that had by then made itself clear, Garret FitzGerald turned and said to me in a big booming voice: “I suppose the PSAI will get plenty of mileage out of this”. And while this will no doubt be the case we won’t have the opportunity this October at our conference to hear Garret FitzGerald’s dulcet tones musing on Fine Gael’s 76 seats. The PSAI has lost a true friend.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

2011 Undergraduate Awards of Ireland

posted by John O’Brennan

Submissions are still being accepted for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards of Ireland. The awards are now in their third year and are open to undergraduates in their final or penultimate year of study in any third level institution on the island of Ireland. Students are encouraged to submit essays/projects completed as part of normal coursework throughout this academic year for consideration under 20 categories. One of those categories is ‘International Relations and Politics’ and covers all areas of study which generally come under the rubric of political science and international relations.

This year for the first time the competition also includes an International Category; this is open to all students in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as students from selected universities in the USA and the UK. Students submit answers in the form of an essay to ONE of the following questions:

1. When is the international community justified in using force to protect human rights?

2. Are urban growth and sustainability independent concepts?

3. Discuss the past, present and possible future effects of social media on society, business and technology.

Last year’s winner in the International Relations and Politics section was Cormac Hayes of Dublin City University (DCU). Students who have received either a First Class or high 2.1 mark in essays and coursework over the past academic year are encouraged to apply. For more information see the website of the Undergraduate Awards of Ireland: http://www.undergraduateawards.com/

What is a Citizens’ Assembly?

Posted by Elaine Byrne

The editors of this website, Elaine Byrne, David Farrell, Eoin O’Malley, Jane Suiter and Matt Wall, published an opinion piece in the Irish Times today arguing that the path to rebuilding a Republic should start with a citizens’ assembly. So what is it?

A Citizens’ Assembly is a means of citizens recapturing trust in their political process by taking ownership of the decision making process. It is an experiment that has had terrific results in many parts of the world. The strengths and shortcomings of this deliberative process were discussed on this site here and the recent Icelandic case here. Prof Ken Carty gave a recent presentationin Trinity outlining a practical example of a citizens’ assembly in action.

It involves rational, reasoned discussion with a cross- section of an entire population and uses various methods of inquiry such as directly questioning experts. It is not adversarial, although disagreement is inevitable and is valued, not stifled. A Citizens’ Assembly values creativity and tends to build consensus rather than creating winning and losing sides – but there is no requirement of unanimity. Deliberative processes are not meant to replace representative or direct democracy, but to enhance and support it.

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The Moriarty Tribunal report

Posted by Elaine Byrne

The Moriarty Tribunal has published two reports today into Michael Lowry and Ben Dunne and Michael Lowry and Denis O’Brien

Some highlights:

The Moriarty Tribunal has described Michael Lowry’s actions in influencing the awarding of the mobile phone licence as “disgraceful” and “insidious”.

The tribunal found that his influence was both direct, in his “disgraceful action in bringing a guillotine down on the work of the Project Group” and “indirect and insidious”, arising from his interaction with the chairman of the Project Group, and his intimation of his views on the second-ranked consortium and on how Esat Digifone’s financial problems could be met. Continue reading

Predicting Transfers

by Kevin Cunningham Trinity College Dublin

Why a new approach?

STV is very exciting. With so many independent candidates, it is quite likely that transfers will have an even greater effect in this election than in previous years. Our system has so many intricacies that it is quite difficult to convert estimated vote share (from polling data) into seat distributions, making predictions incredibly difficult.

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