Here are some edited highlights of the Deliberative Democracy conference held in the Royal Irish Academy some weeks ago, including interviews with the participants there – some of the world’s leading experts on deliberative democracy in practice – on the prospects for the Irish Constitutional Convention.
Posted by David Farrell, June 5 2012
In the aftermath of the Fiscal Treaty referendum, Bruno Kaufmann reflects on the need for radical democratic reform in Ireland and also across the EU. As he puts it, the citizens need to be brought onto ‘the political stage’. Mr Kaufmann is the President of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe, and Chair of the Election Commission for the Swedish city government of Falun. His blog can be accessed here.
Posted by David Farrell (January 24, 2012)
In an interesting piece in today’s Irish Times (see here), Peadar Kirby and Mary P. Murphy make a persuasive case for involving ordinary citizens in the constitutional convention that the government is anticipated to establish in the very near future.
While they take issue with the approach proposed by We The Citizens (which some of us involved in this blog were also involved with), they share the same fundamental ambition of actively engaging with citizens in the process of political and constitutional reform that this government has promised (and hopefully will start delivering on soon). Continue reading
Posted by David Farrell (November 12, 2011)
On November 11, 800 citizens from across Belgium were brought together to discuss the future of their country. G1000 was conceived a few months ago by a small group of Belgian citizens (the key player is a prominent author and columnist, David van Reybrouck; the others are a mix of academics, journalists, and civil society activists) who were concerned about the failure of their political system to get to grips with the economic crisis.
Exercised in particular by the inability of Belgium’s politicians to form a government and the resulting political limbo, the opening line of the group’s manifesto, states: ‘if the politicians can’t find a solution let the citizens’. G1000 seeks to show the country’s political leaders that they should engage with the citizens in seeking a way out of the mess. Their principal objectives are both to show that deliberative democracy can work, and to produce concrete proposals for the government to consider. Continue reading
Post by David Farrell (October 22 2011)
Speaking at a roundtable on political reform last night that was organized by the Political Studies Association of Ireland, Minister Hogan said that details about the proposed constitutional convention will be confirmed within weeks of the presidential election. And, he made it clear that a citizens’ assembly would form part of that process. For Irish Times coverage, see here.
This is the first time since the election, that a government minister has confirmed that there will be a citizens’ assembly.
Post by David Farrell (October 17, 2011)
Due to great interest from various organisations and individuals abroad, The Constitutional Society in Iceland has obtained and published an independent English translation of The Constitutional Bill delivered by The Constitutional Council 29 July 2011. This can be found here.
Post by David Farrell (August 13, 2011)
As reported in earlier posts on this blog, this government has made some quite impressive progress on implementing the political reform proposals proposed in its Programme for Government. They’ve made a good start. But, arguably most of this has been the low-hanging fruit, the relatively easy targets. We’ve still to see the real meat of reform. Continue reading
By Jane Suiter
Political reform ran a poll here for a number of weeks, it has taken a little time to report the findings for which I apologise. We received some 485 responses to the poll with people from 16 to 65 responding from most counties across the country. These are of course not nationally representative but are probably representative of those that read this site. Some of the results make for interesting reading with unsurprisingly an appetite for political reform, some of it quite radical. Continue reading
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.