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

In the National Interest? Abuse of Dáil Privilege or acting in the Public Interest?


Posted on behalf of Dr. Jennifer Kavanagh – Waterford IT

The controversy surrounding the non-reporting of statements by Catherine Murphy TD made in Dáil Eireann last week appears to have been ameliorated by the pronouncement by Mr Justice Donald Binchy that an earlier court order was not intended to stop the reporting of Dáil statements. Some of the focus of this controversy may now move towards whether the statements by Catherine Murphy were an abuse of Dáil privilege. This issue will have to be pursued through the Houses of the Oireachtas. Continue reading

On the same-sex marriage and presidential age referendums

FF United

By Michael Gallagher

The expectation was that the same-sex marriage referendum would deliver a comfortable Yes and the vote on reducing the minimum age for the president an equally decisive No, and that’s just how it worked out. The latter achieved the distinction of delivering the lowest Yes vote (only 27 per cent) of any of the 39 referendums held in this country to date but will otherwise be remembered only for being entirely forgettable, and the puzzle for future historians will be to work out how it ever got onto the ballot paper, given that no-one seemed sufficiently motivated to put together a leaflet or a poster about it, let alone canvass for it.

The same-sex marriage referendum, in contrast, evidently reached parts of the body politic that referendum proposals don’t usually get to. Turnout was just over 60 per cent, the highest since the divorce referendum of November 1995, implying that the issue at stake seemed to the electorate to be more important than the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the Nice and Lisbon Treaties, the election of a president in 1997 and 2011, and even, remarkable as it may seem, the possible abolition of the Seanad. 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

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

Originally posted on John Parkinson:

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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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