Politicians ignore citizens at their peril

I’m currently reading José Saramago’s Seeing (a gift from a former student), which tells the story of how panic sets in among a city’s political classes after the vast bulk of the citizens cast a blank ballot in an election. It’s a great read, though I have to admit I thought the storyline a bit far-fetched. Even with all the problems of our political system are we ever likely to end up in a scenario where such large numbers of citizens are so angry that they simply refuse to engage in the political process at all? Granted, electoral turnout is in decline, but outside of the USA and Switzerland across most of the world’s democracies the bulk of citizens still vote.


To my mind Saramago’s image of a citizenry so turned off that they disengage completely from the political system just didn’t seem credible. That was until yesterday when I stood in the centre of Barcelona and witnessed Catalonia’s (now) annual independence day rally of September 11. Continue reading

Referendums aren’t for the faint hearted


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

The government continues to slight the work of the Constitutional Convention

In the light of the marriage equality and presidential age referendums last week – both the product of recommendations of the Constitutional Convention, a review of the current state of play of government responses to the Convention’s recommendations is timely.

The attached table gives the current situation as of today: ICC recommendations as of May 2015 Continue reading

The Constitutional Convention should take some of the credit for the marriage referendum outcome

There are many people and organisations to credit for the outcome of the marriage referendum, not least the incredible campaign mounted by the Yes side, as described by Noel Whelan in today’s Irish Times.

A question to ask is whether this referendum would ever have happened but for the huge endorsement this issue received from the Constitutional Convention, which debated this matter in April 2013. Would a socially conservative Fine Gael have been willing to accept its junior coalition partner’s desire for a referendum on a matter that hadn’t been included in the programme for government? Would the issue have attracted quite such a degree of all-party consensus? Continue reading

What four recent polls say about the marriage equality referendum


An ‘average’ of polls (line with 95% uncertainty interval shaded) and individual polls as dots for the marriage referendum

Four polls were published on the marriage equality referendum last weekend. These showed large differences in the expected yes-vote, ranging from 53% to 69%. Given that these polls were taken in roughly the same period, what do such large differences tell us about popular support for the proposal? How big is the decline for a ‘yes’ vote and how narrow will its majority be?

Continue reading

Your cut-out-and-keep guide to #indyref night

Independence Posters Seen Throughout Scotland

Want to work out the outcome of the referendum before all of the results are in? Dr. Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia, shows how the outcome will be predictable from the early declarations. This handy guide first appeared on uea.politics.org

It’s 10pm on Thursday 18th September. The polls in the Scottish independence referendum have just closed. You’re anxious to know whether Scots have voted for independence — but you’d like to know before 6:30 the next morning. (Maybe you have some large foreign currency trades to execute).

Thankfully, using our handy cut-out-and-keep guide to each local authority area, you can start making informed guesses about the likely outcome as soon as the first partial results come in. Continue reading

Shortcomings in the Referendum Commission’s research on the two recent referenda


The Referendum Commission’s report on the Seanad and Court of Appeal referendums was published just before Christmas (and can be read here). There is also an accompanying powerpoint file (here) that purports to be a research report carried out for the Commission by Behaviour & Attitudes. (Sorry: but in my book, a ‘research report’ needs to be a bit more than a series of powerpoint slides, and certainly more than the simplistic descriptive analysis presented here.) Continue reading